Two more pieces of the free agent pitching market have come off the board.
• Left-hander Jeff Francis, one of several free agent starters working his way back from injury, has agreed to a one-year deal with the Royals. The deal is reportedly worth $2 million with another $2 million in incentives. The Yankees have been connected to Francis this winter as one of the risk-reward type pitchers who could add bulk to their thin rotation.
• Also, setup man Grant Balfour is reportedly on the verge of a two-year deal with the Athletics. Buster Olney says the deal would be worth $8.1 million, which further suggests the Yankees went well beyond market value to convince Rafael Soriano to pitch the eighth inning. The A’s first-round pick is protected, so the Rays will receive a supplemental pick and a second-round pick as compensation.
For the Yankees, it’s the Francis signing that carries the most weight. After landing Soriano, the Yankees were clearly no longer in the market for a late-inning reliever like Balfour. They do, however, have room — and need — for a starting pitcher.
Justin Duchscherer and Freddy Garcia are probably the remaining free agent starters who have been linked to the Yankees most often this winter, but as Brian Cashman has said time and again, he’s checked on the viability of just about everyone on the market.
UPDATE, 12:15 p.m.: The free agent market is moving today! Add Jim Thome to the list of players who have signed in the past few hours. Thome signed a one-year deal to rejoin the Twins.