The Rays have made a late addition to their potential postseason roster by acquiring Ben Francisco from the Astros for a player to be named later.
Francisco, changing teams for the third time in 2012, joins the Rays in a reserve role. The bench has been lackluster throughout the season. Andrew Friedman has fidgeted with this left-handed bat and that one, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. Amusingly, Francisco fits because of his right-handed bat. On nights when Joe Maddon starts Ryan Roberts and Jeff Keppinger, the Rays are left without a suitable pinch-hitting option from the right side; instead settling for the offensively challenged, switch-hitting duo of Elliot Johnson and Jose Lobaton.
Ben Francisco Platoon Splits, 2010-12
Francisco changes the dynamic to a degree, although perhaps not to the extent you’d anticipate. Unlike many reserve outfielders, Francisco has shown close to platoon-neutral splits in recent seasons. This is typically an attribute more likely to be valued in starters than reserves, since being a reserve implies a lower level of performance. True to form, Francisco entered the season with numbers against both hands that sat around the league-average mark. Describing Francisco as a mostly average player makes sense. He’ll walk some, but never lead a team; he won’t strike out a ton, but he’s not going to post the best batting average; and while he can occasionally find a gap or clear a fence, he isn’t likely to hit 25-plus home runs. In short, Francisco is a player who, at his best, does many things decently, but none exceedingly well.
Of course, there is no evidence of him doing anything decently this season. The good news, and perhaps this is an abuse of the word good, is that Francisco has rarely played. He missed time with a hamstring injury earlier in the season, and when he did play with the Astros it was typically against right-handed pitching (68 percent of the time). The Rays are relying on Francisco bouncing back with improved usage and a more consistent role. Francisco also serves as a hedge in case of injury. No, platooning Francisco and Sam Fuld in a corner outfield spot is not ideal. But it beats the alternatives at hand.
The opportunity costs involved are relatively small. The player to be named later will be nobody of note. Designating Albert Suarez for assignment is an unfortunate development, as he was once a legitimate prospect, but it’s possible, albeit not a given that he passes through waivers. There could be future value here for the Rays, too; Francisco has another year of team control remaining. Whether the Rays choose to exercise that right is to be determined. For now, the Rays will hope to see Francisco playing well through the postseason.