Phillies outfielder Jeff Francoeur has made a habit of racking up timely hits, as I noted at Crashburn Alley a few days ago. Coming into Friday’s action at Wrigley Field against the Cubs, Francoeur had six hits that improved the Phillies’ odds of winning by at least 15 percent, using the Win Probability Added statistic, found on FanGraphs and Baseball Reference.
He’s had three hits that were real game-changers: a walk-off two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth against the Marlins on Sunday (.696 WPA), a tie-breaking two-run double against the Giants in the seventh inning on June 7 (.317 WPA), and a go-ahead three-run home run to break a scoreless tie in the sixth inning against the Red Sox on April 8 (.297 WPA).
Francoeur hit a go-ahead home run in the top of the 10th inning against reliever Rafael Soriano on Friday to break a 3-3 tie, registering a WPA of .437 — ranking as his second-most important hit this season. Watch:
Francoeur, 31, is hitting .265/.298/.469 with nine home runs and 33 RBI on the season. He has reportedly drawn trade interest from the Pirates. The rebuilding Phillies are now 35-63 and still have a seven-game lead for the worst record in baseball, which would earn them the first overall pick in the 2016 draft.
After going unsigned two months into the season, veteran reliever Rafael Soriano agreed to a minor league contract with the Cubs earlier this week. However, it’s going to be a while before he joins the major league bullpen.
According to Carrie Muskat of MLB.com, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said today that he doesn’t expect Soriano to help until after the All-Star break. In other words, he’s about a month away. The 35-year-old is currently throwing at the team’s Dominican Republic academy and will almost certainly need to pitch in a handful of minor league games before being activated.
Soriano posted a 3.19 ERA and 59/19 K/BB ratio over 62 innings with the Nationals last season, but he lost his closer job down the stretch following a rough second half. Per James Wagner of the Washington Post, he’ll make a prorated $4.1 million salary with the Cubs and could earn an additional $4 million in bonuses for games finished and appearances.
Maddon recently pulled Hector Rondon from a save chance, which has led to all sorts of speculation about the team’s closer situation. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported yesterday that the Cubs and Blue Jays are among the teams who have had recent trade talks with the Phillies about Jonathan Papelbon.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon announced recently that he’s going to a closer-by-committee approach and now the team has signed free agent reliever Rafael Soriano, who saved 30-plus games in each of the past three seasons.
Last month Soriano fired his agent, Scott Boras, and scheduled a throwing session for interested teams to come watch him in an effort to land a job for the second half. He previously pitched for Maddon with the Rays in 2010, when Soriano saved a league-high 45 games.
Soriano had a very rough second half for the Nationals last season, which along with being 35 years old and reportedly holding out for big money led to him going unsigned. However, he has a long track record of late-inning excellence that includes a 2.85 ERA and 637 strikeouts in 631 career innings and Soriano has posted a sub-3.25 ERA in eight of the past nine seasons.
It’s a minor-league contract, so expect Soriano to make at least a few appearances in the minors to get back into game shape before joining the Cubs’ bullpen. And don’t be surprised if he’s pitching the ninth inning in Chicago relatively soon. James Wagner of the Washington Post reports that the deal has a prorated base salary of $4.1 million, plus another $4 million in potential incentives.
Rafael Soriano is scheduled to hold a throwing session for interested teams next week in the Dominican Republic, but Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports that the free agent reliever could sign before then.
That’s according to Alan Nero, who replaced the fired Scott Boras as Soriano’s agent recently. Cafardo says the teams showing the most interest in Soriano are the Cardinals, Cubs, and Blue Jays.
Soriano has gone unsigned in part because he’s 35 years old and struggled badly down the stretch for the Nationals last season and in part because he (and Boras) held out for big-time money when it just wasn’t there all offseason.
Now that he’s apparently willing to accept a more reasonable offer in the name of simply finding a job for the second half he’d make plenty of sense for a lot of bullpens. Soriano has a 2.85 ERA in 631 career innings, including a 3.19 ERA last season and a sub-3.25 ERA in eight of the past nine years.