Jeff Francis: Zduriencik flashes his hole cards


... and he thinks he's got a small pair here.


Fun article from SSI hero Jeff Sullivan.  Note the word "chimed" at the end of his first paragraph, because I disagree with that word.  Jon Paul Morosi doesn't "chime."  Other than that, Dr. D agrees with all the other words in the article.

Jeff Francis is the definition of a Tommy John lefty:  allow singles, but allow nothing else.  His BB's are waifish, his groundball ratio pudgy, his HR ratio ectomorphic, his K rate anorexic.  Jeff Francis is a solid #4 pitcher in the big leagues.  The Tommy John lefty would rather pitch in Safeco than elsewhere.

That, of course, is true also of Jason Vargas.


=== You Want Him to Use A Megaphone? ===

When you hear that Jack Zduriencik is making plays for Jeff Francis and Jamie Moyer and Seth Smith, be aware that this clearly signals his intention to make the playoffs, right this second.

Look, even if Zduriencik were playing for 2013 and were only trying not to shut the door completely on 2012, he would already have more than enough starting pitching.

His Big Three are set in granite.  As a group, Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda and Jason Vargas are one of baseball's best.  Here are the AL starting pitchers.  Would you deal Felix, Pineda, and Vargas right here right now for CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Ivan Nova?


Okay, any rebuilding team with a 1-2-3 rotation is more than glad to rotate candidates through the 4-5 spots, right?  Even contending teams are willing to do that.  In 2011, the Yankees had Freddy Garcia, Hector Noesi (?), Brian Gordon and other guys in the back of the rotation.  The Angels had Chatwood, Williams, Richards & Co. going through the 4-5.

If your 1-2-3 are real solid, you're more than fine to rotate talented pitchers through the back.


And here is who the Mariners have, pitching 4-5:

  • Blake Beavan - 11 quality starts in his first 15 games
  • Charlie Furbush - traded Doug Fister for him
  • Danny Hultzen - promised a legit shot to join the rotation Opening Day
  • James Paxton - proclaimed by Zduriencik a "statement guy" in March
  • Erasmo Ramirez - see above
  • NRI guys, cheap SP's such as Jamie Moyer


It would be one thing if Jeff Francis were a low-cost invitee.  He ain't.  He's a guy where, if you get serious about him, starts 60 games the next two years.  Francis isn't there for depth, and isn't there as insurance.  If he comes in here, he is solidly blocking one (1) rotation slot for two long years.

What was the deal?  When you traded Doug Fister, and got back Charlie Furbush, did you believe in Furbush or didn't you?


Bring in Francis and then deal Jason Vargas?  I guess Zduriencik is entitled to his judgment, if he thinks Francis will have better seasons than Vargas.  

Anybody want to talk me into that?  'cause I can't imagine the scenario in which you would run 26 miles, 385 yards to swap out Jason Vargas for Jeff Francis.  They're apples to apples, Red Delicious to Red Delicious even, and who's better?


It's the same thing with this Seth Smith deal.  Look, you paid a whale of a lot to get Casper Wells.  Do you believe in him or do you not?

As you know, I'm Jack Zduriencik's biggest fan.  But if he traded Doug Fister for Wells and Furbush and he has already decided that those two guys are fringe, that was an inexcusable trade, much more thoughtless and short-sighted than anything Bill Bavasi ever did.

Did you know that after Doug Fister joined the Tigers, he was 8-1, 1.79 with 57 strikeouts and 5 walks?  The guy is a $900,000 Orel Hershiser.  Check where he finished in xFIP.


There is one paradigm in which Seth Smith makes sense to me.  It's this:

  • The Mariners are going to run a 118 ERA+ next year.
  • They simply have to make sure that their offense is 95.  Smith helps rule out an 85 OPS+.


Zduriencik has paid, huge, to stock his team with talented ML-ready blue-chippers.  If he's interested in Jeff Francis and Seth Smith, to step in ahead of them, he's either way too indecisive about his own moves, or else he's pushing into the pot heavy for 2012.

Gotta love 'im, don'cha?


Taro's picture

I agree on Francis. He blocks your SP talent. And honestly Vargas is better.
Smith fits a need IMO. We need OF/DH hitting talent and Smith could come cheap. 3 years of a control I believe? So he wouldn't be just a one-year patch.
Not going to defend Z on the Fister trade.. Never liked it from the start.


To slap the label on Casper Wells, ROLE PLAYER, and go about your business with Seth Smith.
Smith is exactly the sort of player I could visualize Earl Weaver deploying to --- > 308 at bats at a 140 OPS+.
Of course if Smith is here, then Fielder-Carp-Smoak won't be, right?

Taro's picture

For Fielder or Carp likely, although Fielder is a real longshot.
2012 could be the year when you figure which talent is going to stick if the Ms start slow. Give Wells some CF time to rest Guti, Carp can DH most days, get all the guys in.
You can start with a platoon in LF, but if it becomes a rebuilding situation again mix guys in.
Personally am a bit skeptical on Carp because of the horrible eye and high LD/BABIP, but I think he deserves a shot at regular PT (and would still get it with Smith in the mix).

RockiesJeff's picture

Both Francis and Smith have been class acts (obviously Francis until last year when he was not resigned) in CO. Francis' arm was never the same after the World Series year. I would not have signed him last year, even more now. Smith lost his patience and eye about halfway through the 2010 year. He is a solid player but an upgrade over the young guys the M's signed? I don't think so. His strength was all fields but last year his K's seemed to multiply (I may be in error and am being naive not checking stats) in key situations. I have liked both players but they would not be difference makers for the M's in 2012, IMH and Humble Opinion.

IcebreakerX's picture

If you're gonna fly a Vargas/Francis swap, I'd prefer Tsuyoshi Wada over Francis as the swap part. At least, then, you'll guarantee the league doesn't have a book on your swap for a year.
But in any case, Francis is the same as one of those pitchers who's always around at the end of the FA period that you can get for garbage.
If Z's serious, I don't trust his talent on the FA Market at all. And it's not like I did when he signed Figgins.


... as to your last paragraph ... it's beginning to jell as a serious question here.  Zduriencik's stunning track record on ML-ready players, as opposed to his assessments of players who have significant ML time behind them.

ghost's picture

Francis = power puke...reminds me a lot of my BOR starters in the AL only fantasy league...4 K/1.5 BB .330 BABIP pitchers are a dime a dozen...we have more interesting arms to try.
In somewhat of an answer to moe...why does acquiring Smith guarantee that Guti is your permanent CF?  Couldn't Wells go there and Carp DH while Smith plays left and is benched for Guti against lefties (on those nights, Guti plays CF and Wells plays left)?  I like the idea of Smith.  I don't like it if it means we're giving up on Fielder...but if it means we lock in Carp at DH, trade Smoak for something tasty and sign Fielder...sign me up, babeh!
No mention here yet of the news that Seattle is interestnig in...GS54 (!) to be our lefty bullpen guy.  That would be OK with me as well.
I am privately hoping that the Ms secretly bid on Nakajima to be their SS help...but I doubt it. :(

IcebreakerX's picture

The only thing I worry about Wada is that he's played in the big park league... For me, a rule of thumb now is trust hitters from the Pacific League (bigger parks) more and trust pitchers from the Central League (smaller parks) more.
Kuroda, Saito, Uehara, Tateyama... Mostly CL.
Ichiro, Iguchi, Taguchi, Johjima... Mostly PL.
However, like Taro's mentioned, league talent in the NPB is down as a whole. Many in Japan will blame it on MLB Exodus, but I blame it on the rise of J-League soccer.


Francis had an ERA+ of 85 last year in  KC.  That isn't inspiring lots of confidence in Moe.  Pitched only about 100 innings in '10 and didn't pitch in '09.  Not much confidence created there.  Really, he hasn't been a really good pitcher since '07.
And for that you bump Beavan to the sidewalk, or Hultzen? Depth is nice, but not if you trod on better younger guys. 
I'm not in on Francis yet. Not even close.
Smith is a complete platoon guy.  Against LHP over the last two years (in 160 PA's or so...nobody, it seems, trusts him against lefties) he's run lines of .217-.272-.304 and .154-.182-.212. Hardly awe inspiring. 
He did go .254-.312-.476 against lefties in '09, in 69 PA's.
So...he's your vs. RHP platoon guy.  Ergo, he doesn't play for Carp, certainly.
Is there a Wells/Smith platoon set-up?  Maybe, but I don't like that, either.  It means that Guti is our CF guy, and I can not see him finding a productive bat.  It also means that the principal guy you got for Fister is a platoon guy vs. lefties.
Ummmmm.  I would prefer Fister, if that is the case.
Smith would help vs. righties, but I see it as an odd/early admission of a faulty Fister trade.
And I'm not yet ready to punt on Wells.  If we see a Guti move to elsewhere and a Wells move to CF, then there is some sense being made.

M-Pops's picture

Seems to me that Z is cultivating options and laying the groundwork for Plan B (in case of a failure to sign Fielder).
Fielder represents a big piece to the M's offensive puzzle. If they miss out on Fielder, Z is going to have to get really creative to make up the difference. Perhaps signing Francis for 2 years makes it easier to move one or more of the SP in a trade for an impact bat.
Z has probably been already given a # by the ownership committee as to how high he is allowed to go for Fielder. I imagine that Z is doing his due diligence just in case the Cubs or Rangers win the bid for Prince.
Here's hoping Z nets his Star to go with all these wonderful scrubs.


Especially given the 1+ walk ratio, Safeco's left field fences, and the lefty short-arm deception.   Spot start for you too.
'course 85-87 mph is Royce Ring territory... concepts are not a lot different, probably ...
Thanks for the light bulb on CL pitching and PL hitting.  Good stuff man.


And Doug Fister could win the next 15 Cy Young Awards in a row, and that wouldn't change it.
Z may have misjudged the peak of the Fister price curve, but you can't make Wells your everyday LF just to prove you were right.
I know that's not what you're saying, but, for me, I'm glad they're not treating him like the presumptive starter.
Besides, I think Wells was the 4th-most important player in the package, out of 4.


But I don't expect it to happen.  In center, he's not a role player, he's an offensive force.  It's defensively that we suffer.
Minor league fielding stats in CF:
Guti: .995 %, 2.45 RF, 2 errors in 433 chances
Wells: .970 %, 2.56 RF, 13 errors in 591 chances
They’re not taking that hit even if they do move Guti, IMO.  Not full-time.  Wells might get spot work in CF, but not full-time.
He just looks more like a 4th outfielder/platoon player/RH-pinch-hitter in a lefty lineup to me.  Since I agree that he wasn't the most important player in the deal, it's not TOO huge an issue, but I don't think we got what Fister's worth back in trade, so I'm just pretending he got injured and we got Furbush and Ruffin to help out the staff while hoping Wells can contribute and F-Mart can turn into somebody.


Hope that he's not reduced to Smith-type options only, in the plan B scenario...
He talked about a big bat via FA or trade, so let's hope that the Upton / Wright / Votto / whoever options are still alive...


You definitely cannot show favoritism to Wells going forward.
It's simply that it would be annoying to see the M's select Wells, see him show exactly what they hoped (before the beanball) and then see them decide (realize?!) -- two months on -- that he's not the answer.
Certainly hope that Chance Ruffin is a more important player than Wells, but the M's characterized the deal as "Fister was not one of our top 5 and we needed offense."


The two big SP trades really do give me pause re: Z as a trading genius.
Brandon League is fine but I though we would get a lot more for Morrow (at least a bat).  Fister?  C'mon!  The WAR T-Rex?  Should have received an impact player in return.  We'll see about the long term secondary pieces, but unless they pan out, we're looking at one of the worst trades I can remember.  I can understand going for quantity, but still I'm disappointed.  I also was a little underwhelmed with Bedard's return but there are understandable reasons why the market there was weak.
Makes me a little scared if we're planning on spinning off one of the young SPs and replacing him with Francis.
We better hope for Fielder (disadvantages or not).  The alternative could be ugly.

Anonymous's picture

Every indication is that the normal Wells is somethinkn like a .240 hitting, 22 HR whacking (given 500 PA's) 110 OPS'ing OF, who strikes out a lot...but whacks lefties hard.
I'm giving him a bunch of PA's to see if that is the guy.  If so, his "good year" will be considerably better.
If he is a platoon in LF with a Smith (which should be a productive pairing) I can live with it....But I'm not sure I don't want to see what his upside is, and give him the chance to get there.
Throw in 4 starts in CF...and I'm getting there.  I just don't see Guti as I once did. 


.... coalesce so transparently.
... of course, the Putz trade was tremendous, and that was constructed around an outfielder who hadn't yet cemented fulltime ML play (as is the case with Wells).
Jury's not done here, but I think Jack would like a savvy deal to come back with after that Detroit howler.


Should have signed in.  That last post was from me.  Can't change the typos, sorry.  Should say "Throw in 40 starts in CF."


Sez Morosi via
Obviously, you don't tap into the richest part of the talent vein for this guy, but a second Lueke-for-Jaso-type deal would be cool with me.
Furbush, Beavan, Ruffin, Delabar, maybe Pryor?  Some combo thereof?
Would you go Seager as the main price for Smith?  Smith is already roughly the type of all-around LH bat that Seager hopes to be, and is a better positional fit (given that they're not thrilled with Kyle at 3b or SS and 2b is taken).


... not sure I'd do it, but it would be fair.  Seager could provide a better bat, or a worse one, and of a similar type ... and he'd cut the Rockies' payroll costs.  Would presume that the Rockies would ask for a sweetener.
While we're along these lines, what about Seager in the OF?

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