Last week Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reported that at least five teams were pursuing Jeff Francis, but the Canadian left-hander talked to the Vancouver Province and downplayed the amount of interest he’s received as a free agent.
It’s exciting for people to read because they think there’s lots of things happening, but it’s not as fast-paced as it’s all made out to be. Teams are interested, but that’s about it at this point.
Francis finished a four-year, $13.25 million contract and the Rockies declined their $7.5 million option on him for 2011 after he went 4-6 with a 5.00 ERA in 104 innings coming back from shoulder surgery.
He’ll likely have to accept an incentive-laden one-year deal at this point, as Francis hasn’t been healthy and effective since winning 17 regular season games and two more in the playoffs during the Rockies’ run to the World Series in 2007.
UPDATE: The swap is now complete, according to Astros social media director Alyson Footer. Houston will receive minor league pitchers Jonnathan Aristil and Wes Musick in return from the Rox.
Aristil, a 24-year-old right-hander, had a 5.90 ERA and 1.63 WHIP over 71.2 minor league innings in 2010. Musick, a 23-year-old lefty, posted a 4.05 ERA and 1.25 WHIP over 122.1 innings at Single-A.
5:18 PM: That was quick.
About an hour ago Buster Olney of ESPN.com tweeted that “the Astros are working hard on a possible trade of Matt Lindstrom today” and now Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports that the 31-year-old reliever has been traded to the Rockies.
Colorado has been in the market for right-handed bullpen help all offseason and dealing for Lindstrom allows the Rockies to fill that role without committing to a multi-year contract. Lindstrom is under team control for two more seasons as an arbitration eligible player and figures to earn around $3 million in 2011.
Harding notes that the Rockies first tried to acquire Lindstrom in the November trade that sent Clint Barmes to the Astros for Felipe Paulino, so they clearly like him a lot despite a rough second half that saw him post a 7.50 ERA and lose closer duties to Brandon Lyon. Lindstrom has averaged 96.3 miles per hour with his fastball over the past three seasons, which ranks third baseball, but all that velocity has never equaled great results and he has a 4.00 career ERA.
Huston Street remains the Rockies’ closer, but should he struggle with injuries again Lindstrom gives them a backup option alongside fellow setup men Rafael Betancourt and Franklin Morales.
With the Nationals and Orioles seemingly fighting over Adam LaRoche and Derrek Lee at first base the Padres have turned their attention to Brad Hawpe, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com.
After hitting at least .285 with 20-plus homers and an OPS above .875 in four straight seasons Hawpe struggled last year, getting released by the Rockies in late August and hitting .179 down the stretch after being picked up by the Rays.
His overall line of .245/.338/.419 wasn’t pretty and Hawpe is a terrible outfielder defensively, but he’s still just 31 years old with an .862 career OPS and would be far less of a liability on defense at first base. And while Coors Field obviously helped Hawpe’s raw numbers with the Rockies his home/road splits were never as extreme as most Colorado hitters.
Going from Coors Field to Petco Park would still be a huge adjustment for Hawpe, but he’s hit .273 with a .369 on-base percentage and .470 slugging percentage on the road during his career.
Garrett Atkins flopped for the Orioles after signing a one-year, $4.5 million deal last offseason, so he’s had to settle for a minor-league contract with the Pirates this time around and will be reunited with former Rockies manager Clint Hurdle.
Atkins gets an invitation to spring training, but the Pirates have already inked fellow third basemen/first basemen Andy Marte and Josh Fields to minor-league pacts, so there will be some competition for corner infield bench spots in Pittsburgh.
Atkins has gone from hitting .329 with 29 homers and 120 RBIs as a 26-year-old to on the verge of being out of baseball at age 31, and while that’s surprising it wasn’t particularly sudden. In his final four seasons with the Rockies his OPS dropped from .965 to .853 to .780 to .650, and by the end his numbers away from hitter-friendly Coors Field were horrendous. And then he hit .214 with a .562 OPS in 44 games for the Orioles, earning $500,000 per RBI.
Seattle has signed catcher Miguel Olivo to a two-year, $7 million contract with a team option for 2013, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com.
Last month the Blue Jays acquired Olivo from the Rockies for a player to be named later, declined his $2.6 million option for 2011, and then offered him arbitration, which means Toronto will receive a compensatory draft pick for losing a Type B free agent who never actually played for them.
Pretty nifty move from general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who saw the value in holding Olivo’s rights even when the Rockies didn’t. Seattle handing $7 million to Olivo is also intriguing, because Jack Zduriencik is viewed as a stat-friendly general manager who places a premium on getting on base and Olivo has consistently posted one of the worst on-base percentages in baseball.
Olivo got on base at a .315 clip this year, which is both significantly below the MLB average and by far the best mark of his career. In fact, it’s only time his OBP has cracked .300. He brings plenty of power to the table, smacking 14 homers in 427 at-bats this year and 20 homers per 550 at-bats for his career, and Olivo also does a good job controlling the running game, but it’s still an odd fit.