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.