Now, now, hear me out. He was indeed one of the worst players in the majors last year – and his career as a whole isn’t exactly an uninterrupted string of successes, but Frenchy might be exactly what the Tigers need. Might be.
What the Tigers are going to need – assuming they don’t try to make any more big splashes as far as position players are concerned – is a right-handed outfielder to platoon along with Andy Dirks. Those aren’t actually all that easy to find. If the Tigers could resign Delmon Young to a cheaper deal and get him to play part time, he’d be a fine fit except for the fact that he cannot play left field any better than Prince Fielder can play left field. Delmon won’t be back, though, regardless. Nobody with talent wants to agree to be a part-time player. Jeff Francoeur is, basically, Delmon Young as far as the bat is concerned. He comes (for 2013) with a very Delmon-like – and excessive – $6.5 million contract. He was also godawful in every way last year and earned the ire of Royals fans all over (like Raburn). They’ll be exceptionally motivated sellers when it comes to Francoeur. He could potentially do some good things as a Tiger… he’s only 28, he has always hit lefties well (career .820 OPS) and he needs to put up some decent numbers in a contract year. We said the same thing about Delmon, of course, but then the critical problem there was actually expecting him to play every day.
The kicker here, as far as whether Francoeur could actually give value, is less whether or not his bat could bounce back. I think it is very probable that he’ll hit better in 2013, especially if he sees more lefties and fewer righties. His Bill James projection is for a .732 OPS, very similar to his career .736. The kicker is whether or not his defense recovers. By DRS, Frenchy had always been pretty good in the field (largely because he has a great arm) – he had a career +68 total going into last season (40 due to arm) and then a -14 last year. The arm stayed good, +8, but he was a whopping -22 on range. I honestly don’t have any idea what caused him to get to so few balls last year… Is he losing speed? Did he have some nagging injuries? Will he be back to normal this year, or just as bad? If he’s just as bad, he won’t have any value to the Tigers or anyone else just like Delmon Young didn’t and won’t. If he does, he’ll actually provide a value commensurate with that $6.5 million even if he only gets 450 PAs.
Now, nobody wants to take the risk on Mr. Francoeur. And that’s why this trade idea is genius! In the Royals attempt to put together a rotation that can take the Tigers on, they desperately need to get rid of some dead salary weight on their roster (those weights are named Francoeur, Chen and Hochevar). Everybody seems to want mediocre starting pitching, but nobody wants below-replacement-level corner outfielders. Except me, I can’t think of a smarter move than trying to pick up guys on the rebound. So the gist of it is that the Royals want to get rid of Francoeur sooo badly that – though they can’t really pick up his salary (that’s the point in moving him) – they might be willing to sweeten the deal. Rumors have already been heard that they’re only willing to deal young, cheap bullpen arms if somebody takes Francoeur.
Rant, Royals fans, rant! Of course you don’t want Andrew Oliver – he’s nothing more than a lefty relief prospect with control problems. Of course Calixte has talent and you’d never trade him for Oliver straight up. But you wouldn’t be trading him for Oliver straight up, you’d be trading him for Oliver, $6.5 million dollars, a Cheeto and a chance to see Wil Myers actually play. I think it’s fair.