Vancouver, B.C. native Jeff Francis became a free agent last Wednesday when the Colorado Rockies declined to exercise his $7-million option for 2011.
Plagued by shoulder woes for the past two seasons, the Canuck southpaw, whose 55 career victories make him the winningest left-hander in Rockies history, is hoping to stay in Denver. MLB Trade Rumors reported in October that the Rockies are interested in bringing Francis back, but ESPN’s Jayson Stark has heard that Colorado’s offer will be a modest one-year, incentive-laden deal. Troy Renck, who covers the Rockies for the Denver Post, tweeted that he believes there’s a 60 per cent chance that Francis will re-sign with the club.
The Canadian hurler returned to start 19 games in 2010 after missing the entire 2009 campaign following surgery on his pitching shoulder. With the 29-year-old lefty’s ERA rising from 3.53 on June 25 to 5.00 by the end of the season, teams will likely be wary of shelling out big bucks for the soft-throwing southpaw. His trip to the disabled list in August for should tendinitis will also inspire questions about his health.
With all of this said, teams will still bid for the Vancouver native if he decides to test the market. A 17-game winner with the Rockies in 2007, Francis started the first game of the World Series for the club that season. He also won 14 and 13 contests in 2005 and 2006 respectively. Joining a pool of free agent left-handers that includes Cliff Lee, Andy Pettitte and his teammate Jorge de la Rosa, Francis could be a nice consolation prize if a club could secure his services on a short, incentive-laden deal.
Cooperstowners in Canada prediction: Francis will re-up with the Rockies on a one-year deal with a base salary in the $1.5 to $2 million range. Incentives will be attached to the pact.
Francis is the second-highest Canadian ever taken in the MLB draft. He was selected ninth overall by the Rockies in 2002. The highest Canadian ever chosen was Surrey, B.C. native Adam Loewen, also a left-hander from B.C., who was taken fourth in the same draft. Loewen has since abandoned pitching and has played outfield in the Jays organization for the past two seasons.
In 2007, Francis became the first Canadian starting pitcher to win a post-season game when he beat the Phillies in the first game of the NLDS on October 3, 2007. He held the Phillies to two runs over six innings to record the victory.
On October 24, 2007, Francis became the first Canadian pitcher to start a World Series game since Reggie Cleveland received the starting nod in Game 5 of the 1975 World Series on October 16, 1975.
*This is the first in a series of blog entries that will look at Canadian free agents this off-season.
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