In what many people think could be a precursor to another move, the Blue Jays acquired outfielder Ben Francisco from the Phillies this afternoon in exchange for left-handed minor league reliever Frank Gailey. Jesse Chavez was designated for assignment to make room for Francisco on the Jays’ 40-man roster.
With the addition of Francisco, the Jays now have eight outfielders on their 40-man roster, including six big league options. With only left field and reserve roles available, though, Francisco’s arrival definitely raises a few question marks.
Francisco, 30, broke into the Majors with the Indians in 2007 before being traded to the Phillies in 2009, where he earned a starting role on their 2011 squad out of spring training. After being relegated to the bench mainly because of the Phillies’ acquisition of Hunter Pence, Francisco will be most remembered in Philadelphia for his pinch-hit, three-run home run off Jaime Garcia in Game 3 of the NLDS in October.
Both offensively and defensively, Francisco doesn’t bring anything outstanding to the table. A career .260 hitter, the California native hit a career-low .244 this past season but posted a career-high .340 on-base percentage thanks to his improved strikeout-to-walk ratio. After hitting at least 3o doubles and 15 home runs in his 2008 and 2009 seasons, it appears Francisco’s best “slugging” days are behind him, and he doesn’t offer much speed on the base paths, either.
In Gailey, the Jays gave up a left-handed reliever and character guy who bounced back and forth between Hi-A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire in 2011 and ultimately finished the year with the Fisher Cats as they won their Eastern League Championship. Dominating the Florida State League for the second consecutive year, Gailey compiled a 1.84 ERA in 44 innings while with Dunedin and averaged just five hits against per nine innings, but had a few rough outings upon making the jump to Double-A. More effective against left-handed hitters, Gailey could be an option for the Phillies as a situational lefty out of their bullpen, but he’ll at least serve as a depth option as well. A Philadelphia native, Gailey returns home with this trade, and you can find more information on him when he was profiled on our site before the season here.
Right now, the Jays have Jose Bautista entrenched in right field and Colby Rasmus in center, with Rajai Davis backing him up. That leaves Travis Snider, Eric Thames, and now Francisco to compete for one Opening Day left fielder’s job. Needless to say, it appears someone is on their way out.
Francisco would actually represent an upgrade in a fourth outfielder role over Davis, who went just 76-for-320 (.238) at the plate with a .273 on-base percentage in 95 games this past season, but it’s hard to imagine the Jays absorbing the $2.75 million Davis is owed next season to make that happen.
The assumption from many on Twitter is that Francisco’s arrival could mean the end of Snider’s tenure in Toronto, but I can’t see Alex Anthopoulos selling so low on Snider this year. He might have finally fallen out of favor with the Jays, but it would seem like Thames would be more likely to be shipped out of town in a package for another player.
Anthopoulos hasn’t exactly signed off on any blockbuster additions this winter (outside of Sergio Santos if you count him) — Luis Valbuena, Jeff Mathis, Andrew Carpenter, Francisco, and now Jim Hoey from the Twins. Needless to say, I’m sure all Jays fans are hoping that there’s more to come this winter in terms of trades.