Royals Sign Jeff Francoeur - Shifting Balance of Power in AL Central

Word has come in that Kansas City has signed outfielder Jeff Francoeur to a 1-year deal valued a $2.5 million.  One can only assume that, having moved David DeJesus and Jose Guillen, they actually intend to play Francoeur regularly.  This had been rumored some time ago and, as it turns out, where there was smoke there was, in fact, fire.  MLB.com reports that the deal includes additional performance incentives and a mutual $4 million option for 2012.

Francoeur posted a .249/.300/.383 line in 503 plate appearances with New York and Texas last year, playing a little right and a little left.  Over his career, Francoeur has hit .268/.310/.425 – played above average defense in the outfield corners and mashed left handed pitching.  For a team that has thwarted itself repeatedly with bad defense, perhaps this makes a sort of sense…  Manager Ned Yost reports that he will be used in the middle of the lineup, which doesn’t seem to make any sort of sense at all.

Alright, we’ve made the jump.  Time to stop beating around the bush.  Who else would pay good money for Jeff Francoeur???  As the weak side of a platoon he’s an acceptable option, but are outfielders that can put up an .800 OPS against lefties really that hard to find?  Worth squandering one’s scarce resources on?  What’s more, every indication is that Frenchy will be an everyday player.   This is an acquisition that shifts the balance of power in the (bottom of) the division by signaling that KC is going to get worse, not better.

Francoeur is replacing David DeJesus in right field, DeJesus’ .318/.384/.443 line in 2010 was good for 2.3 oWAR, even though injuries limited him to 91 games.  That 2.3 was his lowest total since his first full season.  Next year DeJesus was a good bet for at least 2.5 oWAR.  Now he’ll be doing it for Beane in Oakland.  Both play very good defense (DeJesus is arguably better) so the defense part is a wash.  With the bat it’s another story, Frenchy has put up negative oWAR numbers in each of the last three years – averaging -0.7 oWAR per season.

As tough a road as the Royals would otherwise have had climbing out of the gutter, it just got a little tougher.  By, in effect, exchanging DeJesus for Francoeur the Royals have voluntarily sacrificed 3 wins in 2011.  Since we in Detroit have the good fortune to play the Royals 19 times in 2011, maybe one of those wins goes to us.  The edge the Indians have over the Royals now goes from 2 games to 5.  The chance of a wild card team (and who knows, maybe we’ll have two wild cards next fall) coming from the Central just got a little higher as the parity in the division sank.  Three cheers for playoff odds!

To all the Tigers fans out there, rejoice and be thankful!  I cannot possibly express how happy I am (and you too should be) that the Tigers are not run by men who eagerly throw money at men like Jeff Francoeur.  I’d even be OK with Fred Lewis platooning in right, at least he’s no Frenchy.

To any Royals fans out there, you have my sympathy.  If you feel inclined to beat the drum for Dayton Moore’s head, you have my silent support.

Tags: David DeJesus Dayton Moore Jeff Francoeur Kansas City Royals

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