The Rays’ 2013 team is already starting to come into view after the Rays’ acquisitions of James Loney and Yunel Escobar. However, the Rays’ still have to do before they’re ready next season. A big trade could be approaching with James Shields and others on the trade block, but we could also see the Rays make a minor deal to acquire a solid contributor to their 2013 effort. Could a potential target be the Atlanta Braves’ Juan Francisco?
Danny Knobler of CBS Sports noted on Twitter that Francisco could become expendable for the Braves should they acquire another outfielder and that the Rays and Marlins are two teams that are interested in making a move for him. Is Francisco a good fit for the Rays?
Francisco, 25, is a third baseman who played decently for the Braves in 2012, managing a .234/.278/.432 line (88 OPS+) with 11 doubles, 9 homers, and 32 RBI in 205 plate appearances. His Achilles’ heel is a complete lack of plate discipline, walking just 11 times compared to 70 times in 2012 (although he actually had the longest at-bat of 2012), but his power is real as he hit some tape measure shots in 2012 and slammed 27, 23, and 25 homers in his last three full seasons in the minor leagues. Also, Francisco’s defense at third base has been good in a small sample as he has a 4.8 UZR/150 in 642.2 big league innings at the position, and although he has only played third base in the big leagues, he has also played some left field and first base in the minor leagues. Francisco’s lack of plate discipline will prevent him from being a big league regular, but his power makes him an interesting bench option and the cost to acquire him should not be very high once the Braves acquire one more outfielder. For a solid prospect in the low minors, the Rays could end up with a player who could make an impact for them in the major leagues next season.
Wait a second- isn’t Francisco a third baseman? The Rays have Evan Longoria entrenched there for the next ten years! Nevertheless, the Rays are going to be careful with Longoria in 2013 as they try to keep him healthy and Francisco, a lefty hitter, could start at third when Longoria plays DH or gets a day off, and Francisco also could be in line for some at-bats at DH himself in addition to other positions. Francisco is nothing all that special, but the Rays could acquire him in order to use one of their utility player spots on a player they can actually use as an pinch-hitting option off the bench late in games as opposed to another all-field, no-hit type of player. Francisco seems like a good fit for the Rays to improve their bench production while also giving them a little more flexibility with Evan Longoria, and if the Braves make him available, the Rays should make a run at him.