Francoeur and Atchison are Vertical Depth
From the in case you missed it department, the Cleveland Indians have reached an agreement on minor league contracts with veteran outfielder Jeff Francoeur and right-handed relief pitcher Scott Atchison. Both contracts include an invitation to spring training where both are expected to compete for what is sure to be only a small handful of spots on the Indians final roster.
So what should we expect from both of these minor signings? Let’s start with Jeff Francoeur.
Originally one of the most highly regarded outfielding prospects in all of baseball, Jeff Francoeur made a name for himself with the Atlanta Braves. In hist first three seasons, Francoeur looked like a star in the making. His offensive skills combined with his cannon arm out in right field made him an almost nightly entrant on the Sportscenter highlight reel. However, a decline in production in year four combined with frustration from fans led to his being trade to the Mets.
Since then, Francoeur has struggled to find a permanent home and find the magic that made him so special in Atlanta. He has made stops with the aforementioned Mets, Rangers, Royals, and Giants. The 2013 season appeared to be rock bottom for Francoeur as well. He struggled mightily with the Royals as the .208/.249/.322 slash line can attest. After being released by the Royals, he caught on with the Giants, where he was even worse in 22 games before being released.
Francoeur, who is turning 30, will look to rebound during spring training with the Indians and hopefully snag the last remaining spot on the bench. That spot was handled last season by Jason Giambi. This season, Giambi and Francoeur both look to be in the running along with Matt Treanor, Jose Ramirez, David Cooper, David Adams, and Matt Carson.
As for Scott Atchison, he will be in the running for on of the final spots in the Indias bullpen. Most pundits speculate that there will be somewhere around two or three open spots with about 12 different pitchers in competition. The List includes Atchison, C.C. Lee, Frank Herrmann, Nick Hagadone, and Preston Guilmet, among others. Also in the running for spots in the bullpen could be Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin if they fail to secure the final spot in the starting rotation.
Meanwhile, Atchison is coming off of a season in which he posted a 4.37 ERA in 50 games for the Mets. Over the course of his career, he has posted a 3.64 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. The biggest question surrounding Atchison’s prospects as a member of the Indians bullpen will be his health. In 2013, he spent time on the disabled list on separate occasions. The Injuries, though, were unrelated. The first was a right elbow strain, the second a strained right groin.
While both signings have the potential to make an impact on the Indians roster in 2014, they should not be viewed as blockbuster signings. This is a move for vertical depth. Nothing more, nothing less.
Both are at the points in their careers where they are simply looking for work. If they do manage to make it to the Indians opening day roster, expect that their contributions will come sporadically and spread out throughout the course of the season. Security will also be an issue. In other words, if they can’t get the job done expect the Indians to find someone else who can.