The Indians announced the release of OF Jeff Francoeur this morning. Francoeur had been in camp as a non-roster invitee on a minor league contract. The roster move was somewhat surprising because left-handed hitters Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn, and David Murphy comprise the Indians starting outfield and Francoeur bats right-handed.
In his career, Francoeur has hit .285/.335/.465 against left-handed pitchers, but his performance had fallen off in recent seasons. In 2012 and 2013, he hit just .224/.291/.346 in 278 plate appearances versus left-handers.
Francoeur has a somewhat undeserved reputation as a good fielder, thanks to the solid range and powerful arm that earned him a Gold Glove with the Braves in 2007. His arm remains a powerful weapon, ranking second to his former teammate Alex Gordon in Runs Above Average from 2011-2013. But his range has deteriorated in recent seasons, enough to offset the value of his arm.
Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer tweets that Francoeur’s release means that utilityman Elliot Johnson has made the team. Johnson is a switch-hitter who can play anywhere in the field, but he has batted poorly against pitchers of either handedness in his career. Presumably, Indians manager Terry Francona values Johnson’s speed and defensive versatility over Francoeur’s comparatively stronger bat.
In the wake of the debacle versus the Yankees, the Indians optioned Tuesday’s starter Carlos Carrasco to Columbus to work on command of his fastball and, presumably, control of his head-hunting impulses.
Tito’s proclaimed bullpen savior (and Wednesday’s scheduled starter) Brett Myers worked 5-1/3 innings in relief of Carrasco, necessitating the call-up of Corey Kluber from Columbus to take Myers’ turn in the rotation.
Yesterday’s rainout spared Kluber a likely beating from the suddenly potent Yankee bats, but cost him his chance to start. Zach McAllister will take the ball as scheduled in tonight’s series finale.
Kluber, who made 12 starts for the Indians last season, will stick around to provide mop-up innings in case the Yankees get the best of McAllister, but his stay will likely be a short one barring further injury and incompetence. The Indians will not need a fifth starter again until April 20 against the Astros, which is three days after Scott Kazmir is eligible to be activated from the disabled list.
Jason Giambi was eligible to come off the DL on April 9, so Kluber’s roster spot may soon be needed to accommodate the Indians’ elder statesman. Here’s hoping Giambi can deliver some of his Yoda-like wisdom to build the confidence of our young Jedis, who have taken a thrashing at the hands of baseball’s Evil Empire.
In the musical “Damn Yankees,” the Devil sends the seductress Lola to seal his deal with slugger Joe Hardy by stealing him away from his wife. How fitting then that Mark Shapiro chose Chef Michael Symon’s Lola Bistro as the setting for his own seduction of erstwhile Yankee Nick Swisher Monday night.
Shapiro might need the services of the Dark Lord to sway Swisher, who reportedly would prefer to play in Los Angeles where his wife, the actress Joanna Garcia, makes her living. Cleveland, for all its charms, undeniably lacks career opportunities for Mrs. Swisher.
But no job openings seem to exist in L.A. for her husband either. The Angels have no room in the outfield after signing Josh Hamilton, who might know a thing or two about Faustian bargains. And the Dodgers, who have more money than God, can’t seem to find a taker for Andre Ethier and the contract extension they signed him to last June. Perhaps the Lord does work in mysterious ways.
Of course, the demands of marriage are not the only influence on Swisher’s decision. As a young ballplayer with the A’s, Swisher once told a roomful of fans at Fanfest that, while loyalty was nice, he would play for whoever paid him the most money. Now 32 years old, Swisher might not get another chance at a long-term, big-money contract.
Who could blame him, then, for balking at the Indians’ reported offer of four years and $52 million when his statistical inferior Ethier got five years and $85 million? And Hamilton’s deal just provides 125 million more reasons for Swisher to keep looking.
They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but could the contents of a man’s stomach betray what’s in his heart? If Chef Symon knows, he isn’t telling. Symon said in an email that “we don’t ‘kiss & tell’ with our customers…go tribe!!!”
Whenever the Indians were on TV, the whole family would gather around to watch. When Manny would do something particularly amazing, everyone would go nuts. “Manny Ramirez! Manny Ramirez!”, they’d all yell. The family’s King Charles spaniel was your typical cute little lap dog, rarely making noise or bothering anyone. But every time anyone exclaimed “Manny Ramirez!”, the dog had the same reaction: YIPYIPYIPYIPYIPYIPYIPYIPYIPYIP
More importantly, Keri points out that despite his skill erosion, Manny is still a very bad man:
Are you a skeptic who thinks Ramirez isn’t the same since his 50-game PED suspension in 2009? You’re absolutely right. In 167 games (631 PA) since then, he’s hit well below career norms, with a line of .284/.399/.476. That’s still better than anyone the Rays had before last night.
Keri also points out that Manny has an OPS+ of 156 for the years 2008-2010, second only to Albert Pujols.
Ramirez signed with the Rays for $2 million, a steal for a DH with that production and just $700k more than Austin Kearns signed for. And in the past, Manny has publicly stated his desire to return to the Indians.
So forgive me if I wax nostalgic and wonder if, with a little more interest, Manny could have been Manny in Cleveland again.