After a resurgent 2011 season, the Royals signed Jeff Francoeur to a two year contract at a total value of $13.5 million.
Now, Francoeur has a .263/.300/.402 line with seven homers and 24 RBI. He’s been streaky, with a rough April, a very good May and a June where he’s only recently started to drive the ball again. He’s struggled with small ailments that haven’t been problem enough to keep him out of the lineup, but they’ve limited his range in the outfield.
His name is coming up in trade speculation these days, as his veteran leadership could be attractive to a few teams looking for corner outfield help.
Why Teams Want Jeff Francoeur
The qualities that most use to describe Francoeur are often tied to his intangibles. He’s a former phenom who’s flamed out and has worked his way back, playing with the Rangers in their first World Series and having an great 2011. His work ethic is lauded, and he’s credited as being the very model of a “clubhouse guy”. He’s a fan favorite and often goes out of his way to show appreciation of his fans, as evidenced by his Bacon Tuesday antics in Oakland and his penchant for tossing baseballs into the stands with $100 bills wrapped around them.
What that has to do with winning ball games isn’t clear. I’m usually one to lean on the numbers, and since you can’t put a number on “leadership” it’s impossible to quantify. I do think it has an effect, though. With a group of young players around, he’s the guy who shows them how to be a big leaguer in the day to day grind. He’s noted as being a great teammate. To front offices, that stuff matters.
He also has stretches of power, reasonable enough speed and one of the best outfield arms in the game.
He hustles and wants to make the big play.
Why Teams Might Shy Away
Let’s face it, Francoeur’s reputation is one of a hacker. He’s never seen a pitch he didn’t want to swing at. One of his offseason hobbies is golf. The guy just loves to swing.
When he connects, he can be a 20 homer guy and last year reached that mark while also adding 47 doubles.
The flipside is that he doesn’t draw a lot of walks, strikes out a lot and doesn’t have the surplus of power to overcome either shortcoming. He’s the last guy you want up if you need to work a long count, as he’s often going after the first pitch in the at bat (he’s done so 35 times in 2012 and has a cool seven hits to show for it for a .200 average).
The second year on his contract might keep teams away, too. If he had just a one year deal, the investment wouldn’t be so great that a team would feel saddled with his contract if he doesn’t perform.
Why the Royals Would Want to Trade Him
With Alex Gordon‘s contract extension, he’s clearly the guy in left field long term. The Royals still have years of team control on both Jarrod Dyson and Lorenzo Cain if they feel either can be the full time center fielder or if they choose to platoon the two. They have David Lough in Omaha who could possibly handle a role as well if pressed into action.
But who am I kidding? Trading Francoeur opens up right field for Wil Myers.
That’s the main reason the Royals would trade him. Myers may be able to play center field, but most agree that he’d be out of position there. He may be called up while Francoeur is still on the team in 2012 and play there while the Royals shop Frenchy, but he’s a short term option in center.
To the right team, Francoeur would have value that could return a young arm that could contribute or a high-risk, high-reward kind of prospect.
Other Potential Road Blocks
I mentioned his contract, which isn’t so big that it’s a burden, especially to a big market team, but being on the hook for the second year could discourage teams.
There’s also the issue that to trade Francoeur, the perceived value the Royals may have of him may not match the actual value he has on the trade market. Dayton Moore signed Francoeur when he was working his way up the Braves ladder and the running joke on the internet is that Moore has an unhealthy obsession with Francoeur.
Basically, you’d have to find a GM who likes Francoeur MORE than Dayton Moore. Does one exist?
The Royals might also see themselves as still in the race and won’t want to part with a veteran in favor of a rookie.
Teams Who May Have Interest
On Wednesday afternoon, the big buzz was that the Dodgers may have interest. Jon Morosi suggested that they might be a fit especially in light of an injury to Andre Ethier. With Matt Kemp already on the shelf and not set to return until after the All Star break, Ethier suffered an oblique strain, which could take a while to heal. He’s had battles with injuries at other points in his career too, so his recovery may not be quick or without setbacks.
The Dodgers started out hot, carrying the best record in the majors for a while but have faded and now are tied with the Giants for the division lead in the NL West. Without Kemp and Ethier, they’ll be hurting and a veteran bat would be on the top of their list.
The Nationals could be a fit as well. Big money outfielder Jayson Werth has been out since early may with a broken wrist and may not be ready for a rehab assignment until late July. The Nats are in first in the NL East right now but Atlanta and New York have been playing well. A mix of Rick Ankiel (.680 OPS), Steve Lobardozzi (.655 OPS) and Roger Bernandina (.688 OPS) have been patrolling the outfield with Bryce Harper. Mike Morse can play out there too, but he’s only just returned from his own injury battle this month.
Right nearby, the Orioles might look to add someone. Nick Markakis has been hurt for a while and Endy Chavez, Ryan Flaherty and others have tried to fill in around Adam Jones. The Orioles could use another bat to stay in the running in the AL East.
This is the part of trade discussions that I’m awful at. The Dodgers have made odd trades in the past (they traded Carlos Santana for Casey Blake), so who knows who they might want to give up. In 2010, they traded one of their top catching prospects at the time, Lucas May, and a wild card pitcher in Elisaul Pimental to the Royals for Scott Podsednik. It wasn’t a steal but it was a decent return for a one year outfielder with average production at best.
I think the Royals would look to bring in a young arm. There wouldn’t be a high-profile prospect involved unless Francoeur heated up dramatically in the next couple of weeks and other teams got desperate, but they could get someone from a Double A team with some promise and maybe a throw-in with him.