May 28, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Atlanta Braves third basemanJuan Francisco
(25) runs out an infield single in the fourth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
It’s official that Juan Francisco is an Atlanta Brave no longer. Frank Wren and the Brewers agreed on a deal that sends Francisco to Milwaukee, and brings in left-handed relief pitcher Tom Keeling. Most Braves fans reaction to this trade has been something along the lines of, “that’s all we could get for him?”
At first, this reaction seems like an understandable one given the immense power Juan brings to the table. However, in his time with Atlanta, Juan has never put up an on-base percentage above .300. So far in limited time this year, Juan is hitting .241/.287/.398 with a career high strikeout rate of 37.4%.
From Wren’s perspective, that kind of production was worth the bullpen depth that Keeling will add to the Braves. According to Mark Bowman, Keeling will be assigned to Double-A Mississippi:
"Keeling will be assigned to the Braves’ Double-A Mississippi roster. The 25-year-old has made 105 Minor League relief appearances since the Brewers selected him in the 18th round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.Keeling is considered to be a potential candidate for Atlanta’s bullpen at some point next season. His fastball reaches 93 mph and he occasionally attempts to keep hitters off-balance with a sidearm delivery.Keeling has recorded 19 strikeouts and issued 10 walks in 17 innings for Milwaukee’s Double-A Huntsville club this season. Left-handed hitters have batted .273 (6-for-22) against him and right-handed hitters have been limited to a .225 (9-for-40) batting average."
Keeling does have the potential to be a solid lefty specialist in the majors, but he has a lot of work to do with his command before he gets there, as 10 walks in 17 innings is pretty bad.
The loss of Francisco does hurt the Braves bench, however. The best left-handed bat coming off the bench is now Jordan Schafer. To be fair to Schafer, he has done well this year (.310/.420/.464 in 102 PA’s) but he doesn’t have anything close to the power that Francisco brings to the table. With the way Chris Johnson and Ramiro Pena have been playing, though, the team felt that Francisco was expendable, and I have to agree with them.
The Braves filled an area of need by getting rid of a player that doesn’t have a huge role on the team. It’s not a great trade–and I still believe that Francisco could be a solid everyday player for someone–but Frank Wren addressed a major weakness in the organization. It would have been nice if he could have netted a relief pitcher that could be placed into the major league bullpen immediately, but Francisco’s value hasn’t changed too much since last year when we trade JJ Hoover for him. At the time, Hoover was in Triple-A Gwinnett striking out batters at a high rate, but also struggling with control.
Sounds pretty similar to this Keeling kid to me.
All in all, I’d say I like the trade. It seems fair (which is a bit strange since we have become used to Frank Wren stealing other team’s players) and it fills a need. I can’t complain.
What are your thoughts?