Francisco, Jays reach deal to avoid arbitration

Francisco, Jays reach deal to avoid arbitration

Francisco, Jays reach deal to avoid arbitration
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays avoided arbitration with right-hander Frank Francisco on Saturday by signing him to a one-year, $4 million contract.

The 31-year-old Francisco went 6-4 with a 3.76 ERA and two saves last season in Texas. He was recently acquired by the Blue Jays in a trade for catcher Mike Napoli.

Francisco becomes the early favorite to win the closer's job in Toronto. The Dominican native gained experience in that role with the Rangers in 2009 while going 2-3 with a 3.83 ERA and 25 saves. With the Blue Jays, he will also face competition from fellow right-handers Jon Rauch and Octavio Dotel in a heated battle.

Francisco, who made $3.265 million in 2010, was seeking $4.88 million in arbitration while the Rangers originally countered with $3.5 million. Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos has a policy of not negotiating one-year contracts with arbitration players after the cutoff date to exchange salary numbers but because Francisco went through that process while still in Texas he was exempt from the rule.

Toronto's bullpen has an abundance of right-handed pitching. Francisco will be joined by Rauch, Dotel, Jason Frasor and Shawn Camp while David Purcey is the only clear cut left-handed pitcher who will make the roster on Opening Day. That makes Francisco's ability to pitch against left-handed hitters even more valuable to the club. Francisco held left-handers to a .205 batting average in 2010 and has limited them to a .214 mark during his career.

In six Major League seasons, Francisco is 17-15 with a 3.75 ERA and 32 saves, including 315 strikeouts over 283 1/3 innings.

The signing leaves slugger Jose Bautista as the only Blue Jays player who is still eligible for salary arbitration. Bautista has asked for $10.5 million while the club has countered with an offer of $7.6 million. Toronto has not gone through the arbitration process with a player since 1997 with right-hander Bill Risley.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.