With due respect to all you Molly Hatchet fans out there (thanks to you both for the visit!), there are some disturbing rumors floating around out there as the trade deadline approaches that really make my stomach turn. Chief among them is a deal where the names Jeff Francoeur, Oliver Perez, and Luis Castillo are involved.
And while no specific offers have been leaked or made, that’s a 3-for-3 deal whose finalization would surprise nobody.
And that’s the scary part.
Pardon the Chicken Little reaction, but this deal doesn’t work out to help the Royals (again, assuming it’d be a 3 for 3). I’m all in favor of trading Jose Guillen, as, I believe, are most Royals fans. I have no issue with trading Kyle Farnsworth. (though I’m also finding myself warming to the idea of giving him another year in KC. Gulp. What is happening to me?!)
Even moving Gil Meche isn’t a bad idea anymore, as his shoulder issues have been a constant problem and don’t seem to be improving in any satisfactory way.
What’s worst about the whole discussion going on is the players the Mets have on the block. The Royals have been linked to Jeff Francoeur in the past, but no talks really surfaced and a lot of it was just smoke. But where there’s smoke there’s fire, and nobody’s surprised that Dayton Moore is looking his way. Francoeur broke out with the Braves, finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting in 2005. He followed that up with a 29 homer 2006 and a 2007 where he drove in 105 runs and fell just short of batting .300 (.293).
In 2008, his BABIP regressed from .337 in 2007 to .274 and his batting average went from .293 to .239 while he only hit 11 homers in 652 plate appearances. Those struggles continued and the Braves finally cut bait on him, sending him to the Mets for Ryan Church in the typical “change of scenery” trade. To his credit, Francoeur responded well, hitting .311 with the Mets and contributing 11 homers and 40 RBI in 308 plate appearances with New York. He was briefly in discussions for a contract extension with them during the offseason.
But here’s the problem with Jeff Francoeur: he doesn’t walk much (4.8% of his appearances end in a free pass – league average is 8.6%) and he strikes out quite often (17.6% to the league average of 17.3% – though he’s improved that number from earlier in his career).
In short, he’ll fit in just fine with this Royals team.
Francoeur fits in better as a platoon player, as he slugs .479 against left-handed pitchers compared with only .406 against righties. He’s only 25 and heck, Baseball-Reference.com has Andre Dawson and Dave Winfield listed as comparables through age 25, so there’s a little upside to taking him on.
Francoeur’s not the worst guy to take a flyer on. I’d rather we stay away but I wouldn’t be creating effigies or anything. Frenchie’s making $5 million this year and is approaching his last year of arbitration eligibility, so he might get a raise to $6.5 million or so. I wouldn’t be thrilled with that, but I don’t think it would hamstring the Royals much more than another overpaid reliever.
What would be worst if this trade were to happen would be the other two Mets coming over. Luis Castillo was a capable base-stealing second baseman with the Marlins and parlayed that into some big contracts with the Mets.
The key word in that sentence is “was”. Castillo is in the twilight of his career and has been limited by small injuries that have kept him off the field all his career. He’s only surpassed 140 games played in five of his fifteen seasons in the majors. In 2010, Castillo hit the DL in early June after a foot injury and was activated about a week ago.
He hasn’t stolen more than 20 bases since 2006 and while he won a Gold Glove in three straight years (2003-2005), since then he’s been below average statistically in the field. Did I mention that he’s 35 years old and will make $6 million next season? Surely Chris Getz can do at least as well/poorly at a significant discount.
But the real gem is Oliver Perez. Yes, that 9.1 career strikeout rate is sexy, and he’s left-handed to boot. But in 2010 he has a wonderful little K/BB rate of 31/36 and an ERA of 6.15 in 41 innings pitched. Sure, it might be a small sample size, as Perez’s career ERA is 4.60, not too far from league average. He’s fairly effective if he’s healthy.
Therein lies the problem. He’s hardly ever healthy. In 2005, he missed 88 days with a fractured big left toe. Bad luck, no problem. Except it must have bothered him enough for him to post a 6.33 ERA with the Pirates and Mets in 2006. He hit the DL again in 2007 with lower back stiffness, but looked like he was rebounding and that minor setback didn’t force his performance to suffer as he finished 2007 with a 3.56 ERA and struck out 8.8 batters per 9 innings. In 2008, he looked like he was back on track and put up a perfectly average 4.22 ERA. Small issue: he also led the league in walks allowed with 105.
In 2009, he battled tendinitis in his right knee twice and only made 14 starts, but he walked 58 batters in only 66 innings. Worse, his HR/9 rate increased from 1.1 in 2007-2008 to 1.6. He gave up 46 homers in 371 innings from ’08-’09, but 12 in his 66 inning 2009. As a result, his ERA ballooned to 6.82. The tendinitis resurfaced this season in June and he’s just recently been activated after nearly two months on the disabled list.
Also, brace yourself, he’s making $12 million dollars this year.
And next year, too.
From a baseball standpoint, I’d say the acquisition of Francoeur rates as a C- (being optimistic), Castillo is an F, and Perez is an F+ (he’s only 29 and was good…six years ago). Castillo adds nothing to this team that we don’t have in Chris Getz anyway (except salary). Francoeur might have some upside, but I’d rather see what someone from the group of David Lough/Jordan Parraz/Jai Miller/Paulo Orlando and oh yeah Mitch Maier could do as everyday players or as a platoon mix. With the likelihood of David DeJesus‘s option being exercised by the team, the Royals instead may try a Gordon/Francoeur/DeJesus outfield mix in 2011. Oliver Perez is a mess, and if you thought Kyle Davies or Brian Bannister walking half the world was frustrating, at least they’re both cheap and usually healthy.
The deal (as it’s assumed) makes little sense financially, though. Guillen’s signing was a mistake, especially at the $12 million a year salary. But with an OPS higher than Joe Mauer (no kidding, I was surprised too) and some nice home run and RBI numbers, Guillen’s more valuable as a trade piece to another team or for any other deal than this theoretical move. Even straight up for Francoeur would seem like a waste of time for both sides. Guillen’s more valuable to go after an intriguing High A or Double A guy.
But that contract expires after 2010. So does Kyle Farnsworth‘s. And Gil Meche makes $12 million next season. So let’s assume this deal of Guillen/Meche/Farnsworth for Perez/Francoeur/Castillo happens.
The money mostly evens out for the rest of 2010, but in 2011, the Royals would only be on the hook for Meche’s 2011 contract pre-trade, but Guillen and Farnsworth would be free agents. Taking on Castillo ($6 million in 2011) and Francoeur (assume $5 million for 2011, same as 2010) adds $11 million to a team that isn’t any closer to contending. The Mets would have to cover that deficit and STILL I don’t like the idea of it all.
Sure they’re taking our castoffs, and I think Meche is more or less done, but getting into these discussions, we lose some opportunity we might have had by the prospects – even if they’re fringe prospects at best (remember Jordan Parraz and Paulo Orlando were iffy when we acquired them and might have some major league time in their futures now). I’d rather move our veteran reliever with triple digit fastball numbers and improved homerun prevention to a contender for a toolsy guy in Double A who’s had an off 2010 than for an aging second baseman who can’t field, hit or steal bases anymore.
So Dayton, if you’re reading this (probably one of the Molly Hatchet fans), do us a favor. Hang up on Omar Minaya. Let him send his leftovers somewhere else.