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Royals go overboard in re-signing Jeff Francoeur

Aug 18, 2011, 2:30 PM EDT

Jeff Francoeur Getty Images

Pay no attention to the mutual option behind the curtain.  From the day it was dreamed up, it had virtually no chance of being exercised.  What were the odds that both team and player thought said player would be worth exactly $4 million in 2012?

On Thursday, the Royals and Jeff Francoeur both decided the 27-year-old outfielder was worth well more than that.  They agreed to a two-year, $13.5 million extension that locked up the former Brave through 2013.

The dollar amount figures to cause a great deal of hand-wringing.  Francoeur is a polarizing player with his popularity and athleticism and occasional offensive outbursts never completely obscuring the fact that he’s a career .269/.312/.430 hitter.

This year, Francoeur has been considerably better.  Playing for his fourth team, he’s hit .277/.329/.463 with 15 homers and 66 RBI.  He’s also set a career high with 19 steals, nearly matching his total of 23 from his first 5 1/2 years in the bigs.  He’s still made more outs than all but seven American Leaguers, but he rates as an above average offensive corner outfielder for the first time since his rookie half-season of 2005.

One very important thing to remember here is that Francoeur is just 27.  He should have a few more prime years in front of him.  Since he’s 27 and not 30, it’s more likely that his 2011 performance represents real growth.

But this is also Jeff Francoeur we’re talking about.  He always talks a good game.  Every spring, he talks about how his plate discipline is going to improve.  And it usually does for a few weeks in March and the first week in April before he goes back to hacking away.  Francoeur has walked 34 times versus 94 strikeouts this season.  He’s on pace to break his previous career high of 42 walks.  However, he’s already used 462 at-bats in getting 34, so discipline remains a big issue.

Also, Francoeur has truly been above average only the quarter of the time he gets to face left-handers.  He’s batting .315/.379/.602 against southpaws this year, compared to .266/.314/.421 against righties.

Now, that .735 OPS against righties this year isn’t bad at all.  But a little bit of overall regression would be enough to turn him back into a liability against the majority of major league pitchers.  For his career, Francoeur has an .841 OPS against lefties and a .704 OPS against righties.

That’s where the deal falls apart for me.  Even this new and improved Francoeur wouldn’t be anything more than the sixth- or seventh-best regular on a contender, and there’s a realistic chance that the Royals would be better off with Lorenzo Cain in center and Melky Cabrera in right next year than with Cabrera in center and Francoeur in right.

On the plus side, the $13.5 million won’t kill the Royals.  They’ve lopped enough off their payroll over the last year that $6.75 million per year will be pretty easily absorbed, and while it may cut into the budget a bit, spending that kind of cash on such a well-liked player could actually make them a more attractive destination in free agency this winter.  They just need to target better players than Francoeur next time they open their wallets.

  1. phillyphever - Aug 18, 2011 at 2:37 PM

    Where’s Craig when you need him?

    • Matthew Pouliot - Aug 18, 2011 at 2:47 PM

      Well, just look at the blog right now. Obviously, he’s in hysterics and is in no condition to write at the moment. If the new pills kick in, he might provide his take tomorrow.

      • JBerardi - Aug 18, 2011 at 2:50 PM

        Can we confirm that Rany Jazayerli hasn’t suffered a heart attack? I’m more concerned about that…

      • Matthew Pouliot - Aug 18, 2011 at 3:02 PM

        Rany was defending the deal initially, though it seems he believes $13.5 MM was too much. He was always rather optimistic about the initial Francoeur signing.

      • natstowngreg - Aug 18, 2011 at 6:57 PM

        Check the whereabouts of Craig’s bottle of bourbon.

  2. emeraldcityfan - Aug 18, 2011 at 2:42 PM

    They should have declined his option and let the market decide his value. I seriously doubt he would have gotten anywhere close to this from anyone else. I guess K.C. has to use their baseball welfare money somehow.

  3. paul621 - Aug 18, 2011 at 2:53 PM

    Question: why do sports articles so often refer to a player’s former team? I really don’t see how “former Brave” is relevant, especially when the article later notes that he’s played for four teams. Why not “former Met”? I hear it all the time on broadcasts, too, and I’ve never understood.

    • The Baseball Idiot - Aug 18, 2011 at 3:02 PM

      Because most Royals are former Braves. Dayton Moore believes in home-grown talent, as long as home was Richmond.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Aug 18, 2011 at 3:05 PM

      What Baseball Idiot said.

      Also, it’s a writer’s trick. One can only write Francoeur so many times in a paragraph, so it’s necessary to mix it up. Hence “27-year-old,” “former Brave” and “baseball’s Adonis.”

      • paul621 - Aug 18, 2011 at 8:03 PM

        Eh, I see your point, but I guess I just prefer pronouns. And the other arguments are really weak… the article makes no mention of other former Braves on the Royals, his home town, etc. Seems like quite a leap to expect the reader to make. Not to mention, I see and hear it way too often for it to be explained away by “obvious” connections all the time. Anyway, thanks for the explanation–always wondered about that.

    • kcfanatic - Aug 18, 2011 at 3:06 PM

      They refer to him as a “former Brave”, because our GM is Dayton Moore(Sp?). He is from the Braves organization, and constantly brought guys in from the organization. Tony Pena Jr, Kyle Davies…

    • FC - Aug 18, 2011 at 3:22 PM

      I would like to add that he’s from Atlanta, was drafted by the Braves and at one time was rated as the Braves Top Prospect. He also has much more colorful history as a Brave than as a Met, Royal or Ranger.

  4. randall351 - Aug 18, 2011 at 3:08 PM

    This was a completely ridiculous deal for Dayton Moore, I guess he’s back to his old self. I figured that once he dropped Kyle Davies that he had seen the light, but here he comes crashing back down to earth.

    I just wish I was a fly on the wall for the negotiations. I wonder if this was the first offer the Royals put out or if Frenchy was coy and tried to get more out of them?

  5. Chris Fiorentino - Aug 18, 2011 at 3:10 PM

    Matthew,

    Last time your headline contained the word “over” was this one…

    http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/07/29/phillies-pay-heavy-price-for-non-star-in-hunter-pence/

    And we all know how that has looked for you the last few weeks. Does this mean Francoeur is going to post a very nice .344/.408/.557/.966 162 OPS+ the next 16 games? I don’t know but I wouldn’t bet against it.

    • b7p19 - Aug 18, 2011 at 3:23 PM

      Thats ok, you can bet FOR it because I will gladly bet against it. Name your terms.

      Also, I thought this post was a little short on Phillies info. Thanks for bringing us around.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 18, 2011 at 3:36 PM

        Just calling it like I see it b7…saw the word OVER in the headline and it made me think of Mr. Overrated.

    • thefalcon123 - Aug 18, 2011 at 3:23 PM

      .313/.476/.469
      Those are Andruw Jones’ numbers over his last sixteen games.
      I’m not commenting on the trade. I’m commenting on your liberal use of very small sample sizes to justify a position.

      Or how about
      .132 BA, .256 slugging with 1 HR in 78 PAs. Cause that was a 17 game stretch for Barry Bonds. In 2004. When he set the single season record for OPS.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 18, 2011 at 3:35 PM

        It’s all I got so far for Mr. Overrated in his time with the Phillies. You can pull whatever #’s out of your butt you want, but the fact is that a trade WIDELY panned by all of the writers on this board looks just fine 16 games into it. Maybe it’s early, but I propose that if he keeps those exact #’s up the rest of the season, we won’t see a single article by any of these guys saying “I was wrong”.

        But that’s OK though…I’ll be here to point it out to them. Maybe someday, somebody will admit they were wrong. I’ve done it when I was wrong (Madson closing is the biggest example I can think of right now). Let’s hope some others man up when the time comes.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Aug 18, 2011 at 3:25 PM

      I still liked my original headline better.

      • FC - Aug 18, 2011 at 4:39 PM

        FEAR THE BACON!!!

    • okobojicat - Aug 18, 2011 at 5:20 PM

      If you’re evaluating trades, especially trades that involved two very good prospects at low levels, after 16 games – 16 GAMES! – then you’re an even bigger idiot than I had put you down for before. Like wow!

      That’s like saying three months into the Ibanez contract it was brilliant, even though that was also widely panned. And look, the first year of the Ibanez signing ooked like a pretty good deal, but year 2 and 3 made it apparent it wasn’t such a bargain.

      You really can evaluate the Pence trade when it was made and say “well, I project Pence to do this, and those prospects to do that” or you can wait about 6 years and see how the prospects sort it out. Evaluating it now its just stupid.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 18, 2011 at 5:53 PM

        I’m an idiot and you are a jackass. Now go back and crawl under that rock you have been living under.

  6. drunkenhooliganism - Aug 18, 2011 at 3:18 PM

    “They just need to target better players than Francoeur next time they open their wallets.”

    I don’t know if anyone better than Francoeur is willing to play for KC right now. So they have a few dollars to throw around for the next couple years before their harvest of young talent starts making real money.

  7. The Dangerous Mabry - Aug 18, 2011 at 3:22 PM

    Plus, you know, he’s always working on that plate discipline…

    • The Dangerous Mabry - Aug 18, 2011 at 3:23 PM

      What do you need to do to post an image in a comment? That was supposed to include http://media.kansascity.com/smedia/2011/07/07/21/38/GEy4R.Em.81.jpg

  8. Ari Collins - Aug 18, 2011 at 3:58 PM

    It’s not huge money, but it’s still an overpay. It comes out to $9.5M they didn’t have to pay him, to get him for one extra year.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 18, 2011 at 4:03 PM

      Right, but if they wanted him for next year, they would have had to pay him more than $4 million because he was obviously going to opt out of that contract. I think the price is about right and I think people are overreacting to it. Besides, they had to spend all that money the Gil Meche foolishly handed them back somewhere…why not give it to Frenchy?

      • Ari Collins - Aug 18, 2011 at 11:40 PM

        Totally right, Chris, I misread things and thought it was a team option.

        Two years at $7M per ain’t so bad. It’s not exactly good either, and it’s another data point in the graph of Dayton Moore’s poor free agency choices… but I guess they gotta spend on someone while they wait for the kids to establish themselves.

  9. royalsfaninfargo - Aug 18, 2011 at 7:25 PM

    I think they over payed for frenchy, but this is a good move. He is popular in KC and with his teammates and is a good fit for them right now considering they dont have a youngin’ to take over in right field. Also remember that Jason Kendall’s salary comes off the books next year, so this is really a push on the payroll.

  10. goawaydog - Aug 18, 2011 at 7:45 PM

    It’s not like they gave Miguel Tejada $6.5M or $22M to Aubrey Huff or $60M to Aaron Rowand or Zito … never mind, just a grumbling Giants fan

  11. macjacmccoy - Aug 19, 2011 at 2:26 AM

    I know HBT hates Frenchy but 6 and 3 quarters is pretty much on par with his production this year. Remember production isnt just batting line its base running, fielding, and throwing. Heck Ibanez is getting paid a good bit more then him and hasnt came close to Frenchy’s production this year. Their are a dozen more examples just like that. Stop hating, it might seem like a lot when u just look at the amount but if you actually go and look at what other players who are worse, just as good, or slightly better then him are making you will see the money is where it should be. 30 year old Jayson Werth $18m a year for 7 years… yea, thats what I thought, game set match.

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