By RICK SOLEM
The Milwaukee Brewers made a sort of baffling move in my opinion Monday.
They released Juan Francisco, electing to go with Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds at first base – Reynolds can also fill in for Aramis Ramirez at third when he’s inevitably injured.
The reasoning for the move: defense. You know, because first base is such a tough position to field.
Francisco is 26 years old. He has problems with strikeouts, but last time I checked, Reynolds was the king.
This spring, Francisco hit .346 with three home runs. Overbay, 37, hit .179 this spring – thanks to a three-hit effort Saturday that broke his 0-for-26 slump and pulled his BA up from .114 – and zero home runs. Sign him up. He’s bound to improve. You know, with all that potential 37 year olds have.
Reynolds, 30, was a little better this spring at .250 with a pair of dingers. His potential is also probably tapped, too, but he has the ability to play two positions, isn’t 37 and, yeah, Ramirez is going to get injured.
I just don’t understand why you give away a guy you traded for midseason last year and watched hit 13 home runs in 240 at-bats – which averages out to about 26 home runs for the year.
Sure, he also struck out a ridiculous 95 times in those 240 at-bats with Milwaukee – which would average out to about 190 times in a full season – but can’t a coach help him to look at some pitches? Has a guy never learned what “good eye” means after the age of 26?
And of those 190 strikeouts, he’d still be 33 shy of Reynolds, when he set the all-time record with 223 in 2009. He also sits in fourth place with 211 a year later.
If anything, the Brewers would lose nothing when Francisco filled in for Reynolds. You know, because they both strike out at about the same rate. #Sarcasm (kind of)
Instead, Milwaukee elected to go with Overbay for defense. Offensively, he wasn’t awful for the Yankees last year, hitting .240 with 14 home runs, but he’s not going to surprise anyone, and maybe that’s the point.
The Brewers know exactly what they’re going to get with Overbay … don’t they? They know he’s not going to hit .300 with 25 home runs. But he just went through an 0-for-26 slump. It’s very possible he hits .200 with 2 home runs. He’s hit .240, .259, .234 and .243 the last four seasons, so he’s not exactly lighting it up.
Overbay, who like Francisco bats left handed, will definitely not strike out as much. He had 111 in 445 at-bats last year.
But why not go with the untapped potential in Francisco and help him work on defense and hitting (and eating)? Why not keep all three and let Francisco learn from Overbay, since he has so much to offer?
Last year was Francisco’s first full season – kind of. He played 89 games for the Braves and 35 for the Brewers. In 2012, he played 93 games for Atlanta. So, he hasn’t even had a full season with any continuity.
Overbay is a player a veteran team that’s in the World Series race signs midseason to get other players rest. The Brewers are locking him in now and kicking out the 26-year old who could hit 30 home runs.
And don’t think I don’t understand it’s not just about home runs. Overbay will kill Francisco in on-base percentage and probably every other stat, but he’s the backup to Reynolds, who we all already know is going to swing, batta batta, swing.
Francisco could learn. Maybe Reynolds will learn something, though in six full seasons he’s struck out over 150 times every year – sometimes well over.
How long will Francisco be a free agent? A week? Maybe I’m way off, but I’d rather go all in on the “what if” and the “what could be,” than play it safe with a guy a year away from tearing it up in bar league softball. And, really, I’d rather keep them both.
But when Milwaukee is out of the hunt in six weeks – blasphemy that I say such things, I know, but I’m a realist – they’ll throw in some other youngster at first and trade Overbay for some treats for that ugly stray dog they found in Arizona.
Yeah, yeah, Hank the dog is a nice story – probably the best one of the season – with his own corner in a major newspaper (a link on the Entertainment section between Fish Fries and Childish Gambino) but every animal looks cute in a baseball jersey, as you can see.