Wren coveted new third baseman Francisco

Wren coveted new third baseman Francisco

Wren coveted new third baseman Francisco
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- With Chipper Jones sidelined for at least the next two weeks and planning to retire at the end of the season, the Braves acquired third baseman Juan Francisco on Sunday in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds.

But general manager Frank Wren said the Braves have coveted the left-hand-hitting Francisco, who was rated the best power-hitting prospect in the Reds' organization last season, for more than a year.

"We like his offensive potential, we like his bat, we like his power," Wren said. "He has big power.

"This was one of the things that was on the front burner for us since the start of Spring Training. We've been trying to acquire him for well over a year.

"When you get a chance to get a guy with this type of offensive potential, those guys are hard to come by," Wren continued. "He gives Fredi [Gonzalez] a chance to mix and match, and he gives us an offensive threat. He could be a guy who figures with us for a while at third base."

To acquire the 24-year-old, 6-foot-2, 240-pound Francisco, who has spent the past seven seasons in the Reds' organization, where his advancement was blocked by Scott Rolen and Joey Votto, the Braves traded Minor League pitching prospect J.J. Hoover to the Reds.

Francisco, who is out of options, will join the Braves on Monday for their final day of spring camp. "He's on our club," Wren said.

"We're going to give him every opportunity," Gonzalez said.

Francisco will spell Martin Prado at third base until Jones returns. He can also play first base and left field.

"He's got a lot of upside," Gonzalez said. "He's got a big bat. Our scouts have always liked him."

In 81 games spanning three years at the Major League level, Francisco hit .284 with 11 doubles, five home runs and 29 RBIs. On Sept. 12, 2011, he belted a 502-foot home run that landed outside of Great American Ball Park, the second-longest homer ever hit at that stadium.

"Hopefully, he'll find happiness and get it together in Atlanta," said Reds manager Dusty Baker. "If things go right and stay on the proper direction, he can be a force.

"Talent has never been the issue here. If he had options, it would have been a much easier decision. It's just that some of the things weren't working out the way you wanted them to. I wish [Francisco] the best."

Francisco, who opened the 2011 season with the Reds, spent most of the year at Triple-A Louisville, where he batted .307 with 23 doubles, 15 home runs and 50 RBIs in 74 games. He had at least 23 homers and 90 RBIs in three consecutive Minor League seasons and was named Reds Minor League Hitter of the Year for 2008 and '09. International League managers rated Francisco's arm the "best arm among infielders."

Hoover, 24, was 25-19 with a 3.14 ERA in 99 appearances, including 61 starts over four years in the Braves farm system.

"We thought it was a great opportunity for us," Baker said. "We added to our pool of bullpen guys that we may need."