Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports that the Pittsburgh Pirates are one of seven teams still interested in left handed starter Jeff Francis. Crasnick lists the Nationals, Royals, Rangers, Rockies, and both New York teams as the other interested teams.
Francis is coming off a year where he put up a 5.00 ERA in 104.1 innings, along with a 5.8 K/9 and a 2.0 BB/9. He was recovering from a shoulder injury, which caused him to miss the 2009 season. The Pirates currently have a projected rotation of James McDonald, Kevin Correia, Ross Ohlendorf, and Paul Maholm, with Scott Olsen, Charlie Morton, Brad Lincoln, and Jeff Karstens among the players who will battle for the fifth starter role. There have been a lot of trade rumors surrounding Maholm, which means that they could potentially have two open spots, making Francis a good fit.
Francis would be a solid replacement for Maholm, as each pitcher is around the same value. If the Pirates signed Francis and traded Maholm, they wouldn’t lose any value in the rotation, and would gain a prospect in the process. The problem with this approach would be that any team looking to trade for Maholm would be better off signing Francis. Maholm’s value would only increase once Francis and other starting options were off the market, which means the Pirates would probably have to sign Francis before they could trade Maholm.
UPDATE 1:47 PM: Troy Renck of the Denver Post tweets that the Pirates, Mets, and Royals provide more opportunity for Francis than the Rockies, and follows up that Clint Hurdle’s familiarity with Francis’ injury history is a huge benefit for a guy trying to rebound with a new team. It should be noted that not only did Francis break in to the majors under Hurdle, but he also had his best years with Hurdle as the manager (2006/2007). I’d credit pitching coach Bob Apodaca with that success before giving Hurdle credit, although the familiarity could be a big benefit for the Pirates.