Potential Players of Interest: Old Ex-Closers | The Process Report

Potential Players of Interest: Old Ex-Closers

Between the Rays looking for late-inning options and the Rockies signing LaTroy Hawkins on Monday night, now is a good time to consider some ex-closer vets who might come cheap.

Frank Francisco is a beefy right-hander who missed most of last season following elbow surgery. The 34-year-old’s two-year stint with the Mets went about as poorly as possible. As a result, Francisco is likely eyeing a one-year pact that can help him regain value. Durability is a concern with the former Rangers and Jays closer—he’s missed time due to injury in each season since 2009—but there’s enough to like here to put him on the radar.

When healthy, Francisco is primarily a two-pitch guy: low-to-mid-90s fastball and a splitter that sits about 10 ticks lower. His delivery includes a tic (a glove tap before he starts his arm) and a head jerk that harms his command. Unsurprisingly, Francisco is loose within the zone. The splitter is a weapon that he could stand to use more often—perhaps in the same way Fernando Rodney used his in hitter’s counts to take advantage of fastball-seeking hitters—yet he’s still struggled against left-handed hitters in the past. Worth noting: Francisco was involved in Matt Garza trade talks two years ago.

Francisco Rodriguez split last season between Milwaukee and Baltimore. Known as “K-Rod,” Rodriguez struggled with the long ball during his time with the Orioles, though he did manage what would have been a career-best strikeout-to-walk rate. Uncharacteristic struggles against right-handed batters last season aside, Rodriguez tends to be a two-way threat. His arsenal certainly promotes platoon neutrality, as he throws a fastball, changeup, and breaking ball. Although Rodriguez has never been acknowledged as a Rays target, he did mention the club as a team he would be willing to join in a non-closing role a few years ago.

Finally, there’s David Aardsma—whose middle name really should be Francisco. Aardsma missed most of the 2011 and 2012 seasons due to Tommy John surgery. He appeared in 43 games for the Mets last season and allowed too many home runs to be effective. Aardsma has been a reverse-split pitcher over his last few seasons despite an arsenal that includes a low-90s fastball, low-80s slider, and mid-80s splitter. He’s an extreme flyball pitcher who struggles with command and, at times, control.

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