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Reds Ink Francis, Neal to Minor League Deals

No, Neal Francis isn't the name of a baseball player under contract by the Reds.

Still Reds.
Still Reds.

Walt Jocketty and the Cincinnati Reds contract signing division earned their paychecks today by, well, signing some contracts.  Veteran LHP Jeff Francis and former Top 100 prospect Thomas Neal were both picked up by the Queen City team named after a color, with at least Francis receiving an invitation to join the Major League camp in Spring Training at the Goodyear, AZ complex.

Francis, you'll remember, signed a similar contract with the Reds prior to the 2012 season, and he threw 77.1 innings of 3.72 ERA ball for AAA Louisville before exercising an opt-out clause in his contract and rejoining his former club, the Colorado Rockies.  Francis split time between AAA Colorado Springs and Denver last year in the Rockies organization, and in his big league time he sported a 6.27 ERA over 70.1 rather mundane innings.  Francis, now 33, has historically featured FIP numbers much better than his actual ERA (the anti-Cueto, if you will), and he's a fly ball prone soft tosser who was signed to fill the Yossarian22 Honorary Odd LHP Affinity role in the organization.

Neal, however, you'll likely not remember, recall, or be able to recount.  The RH hitting OF came up through the San Francisco Giants organization originally, and Baseball America had him listed as the 96th best prospect in the Minor Leagues prior to his 22 year old season in AA Richmond.  Neal struggled a bit relative to his prior performances in 2010, and he was subsequently traded in July of 2011 to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for former Reds' rah-rah veteranny leader WOOOOOOO Orlando Cabrera.  Neal then bounced around the New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs organizations before signing on the dotted line with the Reds today.  Neal has a nifty .836 OPS over 2918 career minor league PAs, sports a nice walk rate, and has shown ample power, but has yet to really have any career materialize at the Major League level over just 41 career PA.  Still just 26, he does provide some OF depth, though.

This doesn't move like Jagger, but these moves do show that the front office does have a pulse.  Let's hope its more the precursor than the actual plan.