A Question of Jeff Francoeur

Francoeur eventually needs to vacate right field. (Photo Credit: John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE)

If you’ve been reading our articles at Kings of Kauffman for a while, you might know that my first article ever published for this site attempted to legitimize signing Jeff Francoeur way back in the fall of 2010. I didn’t get very far, and I missed a few things that I could’ve used to bolster a case for a signing that I didn’t agree with. It’s just interesting to note that I’ve come all this way and now I’m trying to figure out what the Royals should do with Francoeur.

I was one of the guys who got into Frenchy fever in 2011, as I was pleasantly surprised by his contribution and production. His smooth and suave interview skills wooed me, and I soon found myself as a Francoeur fan. I’ve since woken up from that state of (dis)belief, as we all have this season, and now feel stuck with the guy. Talk about a mood change.

So, Francoeur went from batting .285/.329/.476 in 2011 to .252/.291/.384 so far in 2012, including a sweet .208/.238/.299 line in his last 151 plate appearances since peaking at a .284 batting average. To be fair, if Francoeur would’ve stayed around that peak line – which was similar to the 2011 line – the conversation would be very different. It’s funny what 36 games can do to our perception of players. But Francoeur plays everyday, striking out four times as often as he walks, and providing below-average offense (average is .266/.331/.444 for right fielders). And, to make matters worse, he’ll make $6 million this season, with about $2.75 million remaining to be earned for 2012. Oh, and there’s that nice $7.5 million that we have to look forward to next year.

And then there’s Wil Myers.

Though Myers has cooled off a bit, he’s still hitting .313/.402/.631 at Omaha, and it’s only a matter of time before he’s going to force his way to the Royals roster. That’s where things snag a bit: Myers is likely to be a right fielder. And Francoeur seems unlikely to yield playing time for Myers with that price tag dangling in the wind. Now that Lorenzo Cain is healthy, he’s our center fielder, so even if the Royals wanted Myers at center, they’d have to struggle with moving Cain out. And Alex Gordon is cemented into left field through at least 2015. So, the easiest solution seems to be removing Francoeur. He is the weakest link.

Did I say easiest? I think I meant hardest.

I guess Francoeur could have some trade value. He’s not necessarily the French god of right field, but there’s something. If Dayton Moore could trade Kyle Farnsworth and Rick Ankiel for more than buffalo chips, he’s got to get something for Francoeur, right? Don’t forget that Tim Collins came out of that deal with Atlanta, though the Royals soon discarded the other pieces from the return. Bundle Francoeur with a mediocre pitcher, and we could potentially see a similar deal. Well, except for that weight of the $7.5 million 2013 season dragging behind his moving truck. And except for the fans’ general love of Francoeur, though that seems to have cooled a bit this season. Also, we all have to remember that Moore is a big fan of Francoeur, so he may have a hard time letting him go.

Wil Myers is biding his time in Omaha. (Photo Credit: Minda Haas)

I guess what I’m saying is that it’s hard to decide what to do with Francoeur. The Royals have a player in Myers that could conceivably replace his ouput or even exceed it, though we won’t know for sure until Myers gets the call. You never know what Francoeur will do, but his recent stretch has made this decision more necessary, though no less difficult. Also, whether you believe in such things or not, the other guys seem to really enjoy Francoeur’s leadership and advice. It’s up to each person to decide if he believes that, but I trust the other players’ views and thoughts. If Francoeur really does make a difference in the clubhouse, it’s even more difficult to make this decision.

If Myers continues to hit well and Francoeur continues to flounder, something will have to happen. The problem is that the longer you wait, the lower Francoeur’s trade value gets, if it can go lower. But then you wonder if that’s even a concern. If we get peanuts for him and aren’t paying his contract, that’s that much more payroll that’s open for 2013 that could be used toward, say, a pitcher. With that thought, it’s almost worth giving him away.

This got a bit longer than I’d predicted, and I apologize. But I want to make it clear that this is a difficult matter to work through. It’s not going to be an easy decision, but it’s going to be a decision that arises at some point. With Myers banging on the door, it wouldn’t be useful to keep him out of Kansas City for another season and a half. If he continues to play like he has, the Royals have to be interested in having that bat in the lineup for every game. And that means removing the current right fielder.

It’s going to be a tough decision, but it has to be done at some point. Whether before this trading deadline, in the offseason, or during next season, Francoeur will almost assuredly have to make space for Wil Myers. It’s just a matter of time.

Topics: AL Central, Baseball, Jeff Francoeur, Kansas City Royals, KC, KC Royals, MLB, Royals, Wil Myers

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