Florida Marlins v Atlanta Braves

Jeff Francoeur wants to play every day

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Because they can’t help themselves, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution spoke with Jeff Francoeur yesterday.  Mostly chitchat, but this question about Francoeur’s hopes and dreams for next season stood out:

Q. A part-time role isn’t what you’re after, is it?

A. No, I want to play every day, and the Rangers know that. That’s why I said they’ll have decisions to make. If not, hopefully I’ll go somewhere else. I definitely want to go back, but that stuff will play itself out in the next couple months.

Look, I know everyone wants to play every day, but Francoeur has to appreciate that there are very, very few teams that want to do that with him given his limitations, to put it mildly, against righties. And, no, I will not accept a response that says “hey, he’s just being competitive: there’s nothing wrong with that!”  Why? Because he’s going to be a free agent as soon as the Rangers non-tender him, and any team who may be interested in him in a platoon or backup role is going to be scared away if they think he’s going to sulk if he’s not a full-timer.  Which he will, because he’s done it before.

If Jeff Francoeur truly wants to play every day, here’s what he needs to do: shut up about wanting to play every day, make noises about being flexible, about being a team player and about wanting to go wherever he can contribute. That way he doesn’t scare off the 25-28 teams in major league baseball that are smart enough not to name him their everyday right fielder.  Then, once he’s under contract, Francoeur can work his tail off to improve and impress — rather than just tell the AJC that he’s going to, like he does every spring — and make his new team think twice about him being merely a role player.  And of course, to be prepared to take over full time in the event of an injury or something.

Jeff Francoeur has been given starting jobs for no good reason for many years now, and has failed to deliver. If he had delivered, sure, maybe voicing his desire to be a starter would be justified. But that hasn’t happened, and because of it he cannot afford to be seen making demands like this in the media.

Gerrit Cole set to begin throwing program

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 24:  Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates sits in the dugout in the second inning during the game against the Houston Astros at PNC Park on August 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
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During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.

The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.

The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.

The White Sox wanted Astros’ top prospects for Jose Quintana

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 27:  Jose Quintana #62 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field on August 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.

It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:

We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.

While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.

Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.