The Indians have signed Ben Francisco to a minor league deal, three years after trading him to the Phillies in the Cliff Lee trade. Francisco spent just over two years with the Phillies as a fourth outfielder. In 2012, he bounced around from the Blue Jays to the Astros to the Rays.

The 31-year-old is coming off a career-worst .282 on-base percentage in 2012, which clearly raises questions about his ability to remain at the major-league level. However, the Indians are in need of a fourth outfielder and Francisco’s ability to play all three positions gives him a legitimate shot at winning a job.

Francisco’s toughest competition for a job could be Ryan Raburn, who the Indians also signed to a minor league deal this week. Raburn had spent his entire career with the Tigers since debuting in 2004. While Raburn is far from an offensive threat, he is a significantly better defensive outfielder than Francisco and has the added benefit of having experience at second and third base as well. That type of¬†utility¬†man can be invaluable over the course of a 162 game season.

Others who could compete with Raburn and Ben Francisco for the fourth outfield job include Ezequiel Carrera and Tim Fedroff, both of whom are already on the 40-man roster.

11 Comments

  • Chris says:

    Personally I think I like the combination of Carrera and Rayburn as 4th OF and utility man respectively. Carrera’s speed could be an asset late in games and I believe he has experience in all 3 OF positions. I also think Rayburn has more upside than Francisco does especially since he can double as a back up to Kipnis and Chisenhall. I think a team with Marson, Aviles, Rayburn, and Carrera on the bench is the best option right now.

  • Ryan McCrystal says:

    I think I’d have to agree. As a backup Carrera/Raburn makes the most sense for defensive reasons. But if someone gets hurt I’d probably prefer Francisco get called up to play everyday, unless it looks like Carrera has taken the next step offensively. While I like Raburn as a utility man, if he gets more than 200 PAs this year we’re probably in deep trouble.

  • Steve Alex says:

    ESPN is reporting that Delmon Young signed with Philadelphia for $750,000, and that several other teams, including the Indians, had no interest. I know there are some off-field issues, but it still surprises me that the Indians wouldn’t want this guy at any price when we have no clear option at DH. This guy is only 27, healthy, and a career .284 hitter. Is he another Milton Bradley? Is he that bad?

    • Ryan McCrystal says:

      Young and Francisco each had a -1.2 WAR last year (based on bb-ref). Granted, most of that came from his poor fielding, but over the past two seasons Young’s offensive WAR is -0.5… the Indians should feel pretty confident about being about to put a replacement-level DH on the field without needing to bring Young’s attitude into the clubhouse. In theory, they could call up a triple-a guy (Chris McGuiness for example) and get equal if not better production.

  • Be Rad says:

    Delmon is horrible. He only walked 20 times last year and is an embarrassment just holding a glove in the dugout, let alone in the field. Literally anyone in the system would provide more value. Horrid OBP. I can honestly say Michael Young and him will be the worst starters in the MLB, using WAR (IMO).

    I don’t understand why Thome isn’t being talked about to fill our DH spot or any DH spot. Much higher upside than anyone left in FA pool, even at 43 or so.

  • Steve Alex says:

    Thanks for the insight on D. Young. I’m not sure Michael Young deserves to be in the same category, but ok. As for Thome, I don’t think the team wants another DH who can’t play the field at least once in a while.

  • DaveR says:

    Well Pronk was the DH for some time and when’s the last time he took the field? ;)

  • Chris Burnham says:

    So I guess this DH platoon is a real thing.

  • Chris says:

    Personally, I wouldn’t be opposed to giving Pronk a really cheap incentive laden deal but I don’t know if he’d go for it. If not DH by platoon could actually be an interesting concept. If you think about it it would lead to rest for some players while also allowing some flexibility with rosters. For instance in any given week Santana could DH one night with Marson behind the plate, Reynolds could DH the next night with Santana at first and Marson behind the plate, Swish could DH and Carrera could play RF, and then Cabby could DH with Aviles at SS.

  • Steve Alex says:

    I have no problem with rotating regular position players through the DH spot to give them rest. It’s a great idea and gives a manager much more flexibility than an older/injured guy who can’t play the field. The problem is that the Indians do not have nine regular position players on their team who can swing a bat and would be good candidates for such a scheme. It’s like a reverse game of musical chairs. There are too many chairs and not enough butts to sit in them all. Who is your 9th guy right now? Mike Aviles? Zeke? Ben Francisco? Lou Marson?!! Do you really want utility guys and fringe backups playing DH and trying to drive in runs opposite a Big Papi or somebody like that? I’d rather they bring back Hafner or Thome for 80 games and only have to scramble half the time instead of every night.

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