A Head-Scratcher, or How Not to Reward Performance

The Brewers today asked waivers on 1B/3B Juan Francisco for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release.  In doing so, the Brewers will only have to pay Francisco about $332,000 of the $1.35 million major league contract they gave him this off-season.  By the standards of major league baseball, this move is penny-wise but pound-foolish.

The Brewers have instead decided to open the 2014 season with a platoon of Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay at first base.  Reynolds is the right-handing hit part of the platoon, so Francisco and Overbay were the contestants for the left-handed hitting piece.  I can see few sensible reasons why the Brewers elected to go with Overbay over Francisco.

Francisco is 27 this season, while Overbay is now 37.  Francisco batted .227/.296/.422 last year, while Overbay hit .240/.295/.393.  This Spring, Francisco hit .346/.500/.731 in 34 plate appearances, while Overbay hit .179/.319/.231 in 47 plate appearances.  Who do you think would contribute more offense in 2014?

Even assuming that Overbay is better on defense (fangraphs suggests he is) and is better in the clubhouse, I don’t know how the Brewers could choose Overbay over Francisco.  They were to get roughly the same salary in 2014, and what the Brewers need at 1B is talent and offense, not veteran leadership.

There was talk this off-season that the Brewers would move Khris Davis to 1B this year so that Ryan Braun could return as the Brewers’ left-fielder.  However, it now looks like Braun will play in right-field with Davis remaining in left.  That makes sense to me, because Braun, as a former 3Bman, has a pretty good arm, which is confirmed by his left-field assist totals.

It would have made a lot more sense for the Brewers to swallow Francisco’s extra million dollars and send him to AAA Nashville in case Overbay proves he’s no longer a major league hitter in 2014.  I guess the Brewers feel they don’t have the resources to do so.  I expect it will come back to bite them.

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