For months now it has been apparent that the Royals were going to have to sign someone to complete the 2011 starting rotation. For next season, the only starters in place were Luke Hochevar, Vin Mazzaro, Sean O`Sullivan and Kyle Davies. With Jeff Francis on the roster, the Royals get some insurance against the inevitable injury to one of those guys, as well as the ability to delay the appearance of one of their minor league arms.
Multiple sources have reported that Francis has been signed to one year/$2 million dollar contract, along with the inevitable Dayton Moore incentives clauses. Reportedly, those incentives (which per MLB rules can only be tied to playing time or major awards) could add another $2 million dollars to Francis's salary. From a pure value standpoint, that's actually fairly significant, as it severely reduces the chances that Francis is a true bargain. Then again, if Francis is healthy enough to reach those incentives and presumably pitching well, he'll also likely be traded. So perhaps this point has just been overstated.
To be honest, Francis's numbers are better than I expected. In my mind, he's always been the prototypical underwhelming NL "Ace" pitcher with a whimpy repertoire. That's undoubtedly a product of that Red Sox-Rockies World Series, which took place at the height of the disparity between the two leagues. In any case, the most relevant numbers for Francis come from last season, given that he missed all of 2009 due to a major injury. According to Fangraphs WAR, he was worth nearly two wins above replacement in 2010 (1.9 WAR). Here are the traditional stats:
According to Baseball-Reference's less-FIP influenced WAR, Francis was merely a one win pitcher. Each system has its merits, but I prefer the Fangraphs model when it comes to predicting future performance.
I'm not particularly bullish about Francis's prospects in the AL, but the fact is, he's not being brought to KC to beat the Red Sox in Game One of the 2011 World Series. He's here to kill time basically, to make the grand time-filler of the 2011 season slightly more palatable. In the past, I've found these types of signings to be extremely annoying (Scott Elarton, Joe Mays, Brett Tomko, etc) yet this time it feels different. At least, in 2011, there's presumably something worth waiting for. Strangely too, the current crop of Royals minor league pitchers are actually worth some extra seasoning. As weird as it sounds, if they were worse, I'd want to see them pitch for the 2011 more.
So welcome, Jeff Francis! May your two to five months pitching for the Royals be the highlight of your career!