Kansas City Royals Photo Day

Francoeur returns to form


That’s the headline of this later-than-usual “Jeff Francoeur has figured it all out and is kicking butt and taking names” story from Stan McNeal at the Sporting News.  I mean, we’ve come to expect them when Francoeur gets off to his usual fast start following a chance of scenery, but late May is certainly an outlier in terms of the calendar.

That’s especially true considering this one spends the first several paragraphs with “best shape of his life” stuff. Makes me wonder if this wasn’t written in early April and inadvertently posted just now.  I dunno, maybe it got caught up in the editing process someplace.

But hey, I always love these, so why not:

He ran every day, two miles and then sprints. Lots of sprints, all by himself, outside the front door of his home in Atlanta. Eighty-yarders, shuttle-runs, gassers. That combined with healthier eating melted off the pounds. Francoeur had reached 237 by the end of last season. By February, he says he was 210. He is playing between 208-210, and the bounce in his step is hard not to notice …

… Besides his improved fitness, Francoeur has refined his approach at the plate under the coaching of Kevin Seitzer. Instead of trying to pull home runs, Francoeur is using right and right-center fields, too. He still has roughly three times as many strikeouts as walks, but he isn’t the free-swinger who went 33 games without walking at the start of his career.

Francoeur had a great April, there’s no denying that.  But in May he is hitting .247/.316/.435.  For his career he is hitting .269/.311/.430.  You tell me whether his great April performance or his May performance is more likely to be replicated as the season wears on. Thing is, he has “returned to form.”  Just not in the way McNeal means in the story.

And someone please tell me why Francoeur gets treated differently than every other ~.750 OPS player with some pop, a big swing and a decent platoon split in baseball history.

Orioles interested in Denard Span

Denard Span
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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MASN’s Roch Kubatko is reporting that the Orioles have “some level” of interest in free agent outfielder Denard Span. The Nationals did not make a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Span, which means he doesn’t come attached with draft pick compensation unlike other free agents such as Alex Gordon and Dexter Fowler.

Span, who turns 32 in February, hit a solid .301/.365/.431 with five home runs, 22 RBI, 38 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases, but took only 275 plate appearances due to back and hip injuries. He underwent season-ending hip surgery in September but is expected to be ready to participate in spring training.

The Mets and Royals have also reportedly shown interest in Span’s services.

Blue Jays showing interest in Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Blue Jays are on the prowl for relievers with closing experience. Ryan Madson is one of the names on their list.

Madson, 35, had a career rebirth with the Royals in 2015. He signed a minor league deal with the club that paid him a salary of $850,000 if he made it back to the majors. Due to a plethora of arm injuries, Madson hadn’t pitched in the majors since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies. For the Royals, he wound up becoming a crucial member of the bullpen, finishing with a 2.13 ERA and a 58/14 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

While Madson allowed five runs in 8 1/3 post-season innings, he pitched well when it mattered most, as he hurled three scoreless frames in three appearances in the World Series against the Mets.

Madson has closing experience, with 55 career saves. 32 of them came in 2011 when he took over the closer’s role from Brad Lidge.

After signing Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Jays have bolstered their rotation but it was reported on Saturday that interim GM Tony LaCava is still focused on upgrading the pitching staff.

Trevor Cahill considering the Pirates as a potential destination

Trevor Cahill
AP Photo/Paul Beaty

ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent pitcher Trevor Cahill is looking for a one-year, bounce-back deal. The Pirates are one of the potential teams he is considering.

It’s no surprise that the Pirates are on Cahill’s list. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has garnered a reputation as a miracle worker after turning around the careers of a handful of pitchers, including Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ. Volquez parlayed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates into a two-year, $20 million deal with the Royals last December. Liriano signed with the Pirates on a one-year, $1 million contract and turned that into a three-year, $39 million deal. Happ, dealt to the Pirates from the Mariners at the most recent trade deadline, just signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Blue Jays.

Cahill, once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, has scuffled over parts of seven seasons in the majors. The 27-year-old owns a career 4.13 ERA with a 754/427 K/BB ratio in 1,083 2/3 innings. Cahill had some brief success after signing with the Cubs as a free agent in mid-August, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 11 appearances out of the bullpen.

Blue Jays narrow GM search to two candidates: Tony LaCava and Ross Atkins

Tony LaCava
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Blue Jays have narrowed their search for a new general manager down to two candidates: current interim GM Tony LaCava, and Indians vice president of player personnel Ross Atkins. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos resigned last month.

LaCava was promoted to interim GM on November 2 and has already made a handful of moves along with new president Mark Shapiro. The club acquired Jesse Chavez in a trade and signed pitchers Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals.

Atkins worked under Shapiro in the Indians organization for 15 seasons, so it is no surprise that he is a finalist for the open GM position.