Do you remember who the Brewers sent to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for Juan Francisco? Because I sure as hell didn't before writing this article. In fact, that whole trade is a distant memory. It took me a second to remember the Brewers even had to give something up for him. It feels more like Juan Francisco randomly showed up in the Brewers locker room one day and they said 'ehh, why not' and stitched together a couple uniforms for him to wear.
Thomas Keeling was the player the Brewers traded away. He's a 25 year old left handed relief pitcher who reached Double-A for the first time in 2013. He has a 6.17 career ERA in the minors. A 1.69 career WHIP. A 7.3 BB/9 over his career.
That should show you what the Braves thought of Juan Francisco at the time. He had been expected to contend for the team's starting third baseman job following the retirement of Chipper Jones and Francisco's stellar winter league performance in the Dominican.
Instead, Francisco was beaten out by Chris Johnson for the job and ended up hitting .241/.287/.398 with five homers over 35 games for Atlanta. He never really had a great OBP in the minors, either, but he was strong and he hit the ball a long way and that can get you far, especially when power is becoming an increasingly rare commodity in baseball.
So the first baseman-less Brewers picked up Francisco, who is not a first baseman, and put him at first base. And to his credit, he really didn't play all that poorly. Through his first three months in Milwaukee, he played in 68 games and hit .237/.316/.478 with 13 home runs. A .795 OPS is pretty respectable. He started struggling, though, and lost most of his playing time in September while hitting just .194 with a .346 OPS through the month.
Now the Brewers are faced with the choice to either non-tender Francisco or see what he makes in his first year of arbitration. Personally, I think they should keep him. Like I said, power is not nearly as common in the MLB anymore. One of this offseason's top trade candidates is Mark Trumbo. Trumbo is one year older than Francisco. His three years of team control are one fewer than Francisco's four. Mark Trumbo has a career .299 OBP and has a .768 career OPS. Trumbo's biggest selling point? He has hit 95 home runs over three full seasons. He is a bad outfielder and eh first baseman.
Juan Francisco could probably be that. Maybe not quite as proficient at hitting the long ball, but close. Francisco could be around a .300 OBP with the possibility of 25-30 home runs. He's a poor defensive player. Francisco has hit a long ball once every 22 at bats. Trumbo once every 18. Both strike out a ton. The biggest difference is that Francisco has never gotten the consistent playing time Trumbo has.
So, yeah, on what will probably be a $1 million deal, I think the Brewers should give a shot to Francisco. If it turns out a full year will turn him into a Mark Trumbo-lite, then the Brewers are coming out way ahead. If he can't handle the workload, the team is out a relatively small chunk of change. Works for me.
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