One of the high points in yesterday’s win was Frank Francisco. After a rocky spring training that culminated in a cortisone shot in his knee, the new Mets closer pitched a one-two-three ninth inning, retiring Freddie Freeman on a ground out, Eric Hinske on a foul pop-up and finishing with a flourishing, fanning Jason Heyward. Francisco is now one-for-one in save chances and, like Terry Collins said, performed when the “big lights” came on. With his value sky-high, now is the time to trade him to the Boston Red Sox.
Wait, what? Didn’t the Mets just pay (or overpay) Francisco $12 million to close? You betcha. So why trade him-because he has value. Maybe not right now, but Francisco could potentially carry significant value later in the season, and the Red Sox might be a prime target.
Of course, Boston went out an acquired a proven closer this past offseason in Andrew Bailey, but he just underwent thumb surgery and will be out four-five months, which covers the bulk of the season. That leaves Alfredo Aceves, who has zero closing experience, and Mark Melancon, who closed briefly with the Houston Astros last season, as the team’s primary late-inning relievers, with Aceves being tabbed as the closer early-on. Neither name inspires confidence and the duo got off to a rough start in the season opener against the Detroit Tigers, combining to allow three hits and a run in the bottom of the ninth, leading to a Red Sox loss. General Manager Ben Cherington admitted that he is uncomfortable with the team’s pitching depth and will explore external options, opening the door for a team like the Mets to pawn off one of their relievers.
Francisco isn’t exactly the mark of consistency, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that he could be traded to the Red Sox. For one, he spent a season pitching in the American League East and has familiarity with the opposing hitters, in addition to spending his entire career in the AL before arriving in New York. From 2007-11, Francisco has pitched to a 3.76 ERA, 1.297 WHIP, 9.9 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9, saving 49 games in 67 chances, a 73% mark. Those numbers aren’t stellar, but he’s a hard thrower who can get the job done and will sometimes make things interesting. For a team in need of a closer, Francisco is an option.
Compare Francisco to Matt Capps. Closing for the Pirates from 07-09, Capps compiled a 3.51 ERA, 1.187 WHIP, 7.2 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 while saving 66 games in 79 chances, an 84% clip. Capps then signed as a free agent with the Washington Nationals for $3.5 million, where he put together decent numbers (2.74 ERA, 1.304 WHIP, 7.4 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9, saving 26 games in 30 opportunities) before being dealt to the Minnesota Twins for Wilson Ramos and Joe Testa. Ramos is one of the more promising young catchers in the league and Capps regressed in ’11 before signing a new one year deal with the Twins this past winter.
So the two aren’t exactly comparable, but the point is that average (or less than average) relievers do have value in the trade market. Granted, Francisco has another year on his contract, but if the Mets kicked in some cash, a team in need of a closer could bite. All this speculation is for naught if either a) Francisco has a terrible year or b) the Mets are in contention while Francisco is handling the closer role so well that Sandy Alderson doesn’t think he is worth trading. It might seem like a no-brainer to hold into Francisco in scenario b), but if the Amazins are on the fringes of contention instead of way out in front, it still might be worth dealing him because they have other relievers (Jon Rauch and Bobby Parnell) who could probably tackle closing duties. Either way, since Francisco probably doesn’t factor into the organization’s long term plans, it is worth exploring the trade market for him, and if the Red Sox came knocking sooner rather than later, it would be wise to pull the trigger on the right deal.
Tags: Alfredeo Aceves Amazins Andrew Bailey Ben Cherington Bobby Parnell Boston Red Sox Closer Frank Francisco Jon Rauch Mark Melancon Matt Kaufman Mets Mets Closer Mets Game Highlights New York New York Mets Opening Day Rising Apple Sandy Alderson Terry Collins