Rockies finalize one-year contract with Francis
Deal worth $1.5M plus incentives; Rox continue search for another dependable starter
DENVER -- The Rockies finalized a one-year, $1.5 million base contract with veteran Jeff Francis on Wednesday as part of their plan to give stability to their season-opening rotation.Francis could double his earnings through performance bonuses, according to a Major League source. His incentives are $100,000 for 140 innings, $125,000 for 150 innings, $150,000 for 160 innings, $175,000 for 170 innings, $200,000 for 180 innings, $225,000 for 190 innings, $250,000 for 200 innings and $275,000 for 210 innings. The contract also includes standard incentives for the All-Star Game, Gold Glove and Comeback Player of the Year. Francis, 31, who pitched for the Rockies from 2004-10 and the Royals in 2011, began last year at Triple-A with Cincinnati before again joining the Rockies in June, going 6-7 with a 5.58 ERA in 24 starts. The contract with Francis went public during the Winter Meetings earlier this month but didn't become official until Wednesday. His addition puts the Rockies' Major League roster at the limit, 40, which means any future additions will have to be paired with subtractions. The Rockies' top pick in the 2002 MLB First-Year Player Draft, Francis is second on the Rockies' career list in wins (61), innings pitched (995 2/3) and starts (173); third in strikeouts (679) and fifth in winning percentage (.517). The club is still seeking another experienced, low-walk, high-ground ball pitcher. Thus far, no club has met the high price the Rockies are asking for center fielder Dexter Fowler or right fielder/first baseman Michael Cuddyer. The dependable rotation piece is only part of what the Rockies have asked. As for what the Rockies have, Francis is experienced and was healthy all of last season. No other Rockies rotation candidate can claim both of those attributes. Francis was one of the bright spots in a rough and painful year that saw Rockies starters cough up the highest ERA (5.81) and opponents' batting average (.304) in the Majors while throwing the fewest innings of any set of starters (765). Two key rotation pieces are coming off injury-abbreviated 2012 seasons -- right-hander Jhoulys Chacin and left-hander Jorge De La Rosa, who are expected to operate with Francis as leaders of the pitching staff. The Rockies like the raw talent of right-hander Juan Nicasio, but he missed most of last season with a knee injury and was hit in the face by a line drive to end his rookie 2011 season early. Righty Tyler Chatwood and left-handers Drew Pomeranz, Christian Friedrich and Josh Outman all spent time in the Minors as well as the Majors last year. Friedrich finished the season on the disabled list with a lower back stress fracture but is expected to be healthy.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.