Back-to-back ugly outings over the weekend left Frank Francisco with an 8.56 ERA, which along with three losses and two blown saves overall this season led to speculation that the Mets were considering a closer change.
Instead manager Terry Collins said today that he’s sticking with Francisco and the team believes his struggles might stem from tipping his pitches, with the idea being that the issue is fixable.
Francisco’s pre-2012 track record as a setup man and occasional closer suggested he was very capable of getting the job done in the ninth inning on a full-time basis, but injuries have clouded that somewhat and his fastball velocity is also down slightly from past years.
Francisco has missed plenty of bats, totaling 15 strikeouts in 13.2 innings, but he’s also handed out seven walks and opponents are hitting .328. Last year with the Blue Jays he had a 3.55 ERA and 53/18 K/BB ratio in 51 innings, so it’s not just blind faith from Collins keeping him in the role … for now, at least. In the meantime Jon Rauch looms as the obvious fallback option.
Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday.
After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.
With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.