Free-agent right-hander Frank Francisco is likely to accept the Rangers’ offer of salary arbitration, giving the team additional late-inning relief options, major-league sources say.
Francisco, 31, is a Type A free agent. By accepting arbitration, he'd opt for a one-year, non-guaranteed contract with a near-certain raise from his 2010 salary of $3.265 million.
Other teams have shown interest in Francisco as a closer. However, in recent years, clubs have been reluctant to surrender a high draft pick for Type A relievers who aren't established ninth-inning specialists.
Of the 14 Type A free agents offered arbitration, right-handers Jason Frasor and Grant Balfour are the most similar to Francisco. Both could accept arbitration, returning to the Blue Jays and Rays, respectively.
Francisco, who didn't pitch after Aug. 28 last season due to a muscle strain in his right side, likely would resume a prominent role for the Rangers, either as a setup man or closer.
The Rangers are trying to retain free-agent left-hander Cliff Lee. If they lose him, they might be more likely to move right-hander Neftali Feliz to the rotation, opening the closer’s role for Francisco or someone else.
The team's also discussed making right-hander Alexi Ogando a starter or closer, depending upon what it does with Feliz.
Yet another option, if Lee departs, would be to sign free-agent closer Rafael Soriano.
The Rangers, though, are more likely to spend big on a free-agent hitter such as Vladimir Guerrero, Paul Konerko or Adam Dunn – and supplement the bullpen with a more inexpensive reliever.
Right-hander Bobby Jenks could be one possibility if he is non-tendered by the White Sox. Free-agent righty Kerry Wood could be another.
Francisco, 31, posted a 3.76 ERA in 52 2/3 innings last season, striking out 60 and walking 18. He lost the closer’s role to Feliz after blowing saves in his first two opportunities.