Where Francisco fits with Jays a puzzle

Ben Francisco nearly falls over after a hit against the Athletics in Philadelphia, Penn., June 24,...

Ben Francisco nearly falls over after a hit against the Athletics in Philadelphia, Penn., June 24, 2011 (TOM MIHALEK/Reuters)

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:02 PM ET

TORONTO - When the history of the Philadelphia Phillies is written Ben Francisco won’t be more than a couple of lines.

As for his contribution to the Blue Jays?

He could be a productive fourth outfielder, the starting left fielder or the acquisition which allowed general manager Alex Anthopoulos to move Travis Snider to the Oakland A’s for lefty Gio Gonzalez.

The Jays moved minor league arm Frank Gailey, 26, to the Phillies for Francisco, 30, on Monday afternoon.

Francisco was known for two things with the Phillies:

He was the pinch-hitter manager Charlie Manuel used against Madison Bumgarner with one out with a man on third in the sixth — with the Phillies and San Francisco Giants deadlocked 2-2 in Game 6 of the 2010 National League Championship Series.

Francisco struck out looking when a ground ball or a fly ball would have given them the lead. Phillies fans wanted either Mike Sweeney or Russ Gload to hit after the Giants scored a 3-2 win to take the NLCS.

And it was Francisco general manager Ruben Amaro was visiting a month later in Scottsdale, Ariz., when Amaro’s phone rang. Agent Darek Braunecker called out of the blue saying Cliff Lee wanted to sign with Philadelphia.

Now, the Jays have Eric Thames, Francisco and Snider competing in left. Anthopoulos said next year’s bench could consist of two outfielders in Rajai Davis and Francisco.

“We think it’ll work,” Anthopoulos told reporters. “It wasn’t the thought (to make another deal). He’s hit left-handers, we have Thames and Snider competing for a job in left. Davis can back-up in centre.”

The Jays claimed right-hand reliever Jim Hoey, 28, on waivers from the Minnesota Twins where he was 1-2 with a 5.47 ERA on Monday, final day to non-tendered players.

They also signed catcher Jeff Mathis to a $1,5 million US deal, plus right-handers Jesse Litsch ($975,000) and Dustin McGowan ($600,000) to one-year deals.

Francisco started 52, 27 and 88 games the previous three seasons. He was acquired by the Phillies in 2009 from the Cleveland Indians. Francisco started 98 games with the Indians in 2008 when he had the most at-bats (447) in his five-year career. He earned $1.175 US million this year.

Anthoupoulos said Francisco’s arrival allows manager John Farrell “more flexibility” against a tough lefty, as the Jays will have four left-handed hitters in their lineup: first baseman Adam Lind, centre fielder Colby Rasmus, second baseman Kelly Johnson and Thames or Snider, the left fielder.

“This gives us an opportunity to mix and match,” Anthopoulos said. “We have background on him, when John was with the Indians, to the front office seeing him in the spring and scouts watching him in season.”

Francisco hit .244 with six homers and 34 RBIs in 100 games with the Phillies last season.

“He’s better as a DH, a bit of a defensive liability,” said one evaluator. “In the field he’s one of those guys the ball always finds. He can’t hit a curve, but he can turn around a fastball in a hurry. He’s similar to Edwin Encarnacion.”

Anthopoulos said all bids for free-agent right-hander Yu Darvish have to be submitted by 5 p.m. Tuesday. The Nippon Ham Fighters have posted his contract. The winning bid gets 30 days to negotiate a contract.

The Jays’ interest (in posting) is lukewarm, although many in the industry expect the Jays to bid as GM Gord Ash did on Ichiro Suzuki in 2000. The Texas Rangers are considered the clubhouse leader.

“We have to get better in the bullpen, better in the rotation or add another bat,” Anthopoulos said. “I don’t plan on stopping, I plan on getting better.”

Gailey was 5-6 with a 3.41 ERA at class-A Dunedin and double-A New Hampshire this season.

“We think (Gailey) has a chance to pitch in the majors some day,” said Anthopoulos.

Hoey was 1-3 with nine saves and a 3.83 ERA at triple-A Rochester, having walked 21 and struck out 38 in 42 1/3 innings.

To make room for Francisco and Hoey, catcher Brian Jeroloman and right-hander Drew Carpenter were removed from the 40-man roster.


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