Knobler: Rays, Marlins Interested in Juan Francisco | The Process Report

Knobler: Rays, Marlins Interested in Juan Francisco

After swapping infielders on Tuesday, the Rays and Marlins were reportedly entertaining trades for the same player. Both Florida-based teams have interest in Braves third baseman Juan Francisco, according to Danny Knobler of CBS Sports. As it stands, Francisco is slated to play a role for Atlanta in replacing the retired Chipper Jones at third base. That may change, however, if the Braves acquire another outfielder, allowing them to move Martin Prado to the hot corner, and thus opening up Francisco for a trade.

The Rays’ attraction to Francisco is curious. The club has several holes to fill, but left-handed corner infielder is not necessarily on the list. Besides, the Rays have allocated seven-figure salaries for Ryan Roberts and Sean Rodriguez. Allocating more resources to (potentially) reserve infielders seems to be a set-up for another trade.

Nevertheless, the Dominican native is young, cheap, controllable, and talented. All attributes that the Rays, like most teams, covet.

Signed as an amateur free agent in 2004, Francisco spent several years in the Reds organization before an April 2012 trade to Atlanta. He received his heaviest workload to date with the Braves, amassing 203 plate appearances this season while compiling a .234/.278/.432 slash line.

Francisco is notorious hacker. He does not accept walks and seldom meets a pitch unworthy of a swing. This approach, in conjunction with a lengthy swing, leads to a lot of whiffs. But when Francisco does make contact, the ball tends to go the other way in a hurry. For all his struggles at the plate last season, his Isolated Power measured just under .200 with 20 of his 45 hits resulting in extra bases.

Mechanics wise, Francisco has a lot of pre-swing movement including a toe tap and significant bat wiggle. He has long arms and good bat speed which gives him solid coverage and power on the outer half of the plate. He struggles on pitches up in the zone, especially ones thrown at higher velocity.

Defensively, Francisco has played third base exclusively in the big leagues with limited experience at first base and the corner outfield as a minor leaguer. He is closer to average than he is awful; possessing a strong arm with limited mobility and range. He appears capable of backing up the position, but could enhance his profile by picking up some additional gloves at the positions mentioned above.

Once more, the interest in Francisco seems a bit odd on the surface. As mentioned, the team has already committed million-dollar or greater salaries to part-timers in Rodriguez and Roberts. They also have a newly signed, left-handed first baseman and several lefties available in the outfield. This leaves little-to-no room for Francisco as a platoon player. Meanwhile, the team could use a competent backup to Evan Longoria at third base as well as some power off the bench. Depending on the Braves demands in return, the 25-year-old could be a decent pickup for the Rays; filling a Willy Aybar-like utility role.

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