Friday, December 10, 2010

Francoeur Comes Home.

I’m sorry, guys. This is all my fault.

I mean, who am I to criticize Dayton Moore for finally doing something that I agitated for 18 months ago? I thought Jeff Francoeur was a risk worth taking then; how can I fault Moore for taking that risk now?

In my defense, that was more than 800 plate appearances (and more than 550 outs) ago. When Francoeur was wearing out his welcome in Atlanta, he was a 25-year-old outfielder just two years removed from a .293/.338/.444, Gold Glove-winning season. When he takes the field next April, he’ll be 27, and his last non-awful season will be four years in the past.

You know what? I’m not taking the blame for this. Dayton Moore and Jeff Francoeur was an inevitability from Day One. A charismatic ex-Brave? Someone Moore had a good personal relationship with in Atlanta? Great tools? No plate discipline? Lots of RBIs? A low OBP? Pleeze. The wonder isn’t that Moore and Francoeur are reunited. The wonder is that it took this long. The only thing this union is missing to make it the quintessential Dayton Moore transaction is a mutual option. Wait, what’s that?

But while I’m certainly less optimistic about Francoeur’s potential upside today than I was in June, 2009, at the same time I think this signing is so easy to mock – Bad Major League GM Signs Bad Major League Outfielder (That He Once Signed Out Of High School) – that it’s getting a bad rap. Or at least, a worse rap than it deserves.

For one thing, it’s a one-year deal. One year, everyone, along with that ridiculous and generally meaningless mutual option that Moore loves. (As an aside: have the Royals actually kept a single player on one of those mutual options? Miguel Olivo, maybe?) Judging from the Royals’ blogosphere, fans were fully expecting Moore to give Francoeur two or even three guaranteed years, at five or seven million dollars per. Instead, Frenchy is guaranteed just $2.5 million.

Nonetheless, the blogosphere is in open revolt. Over at Royals Review, they had to start an overflow thread after the original post generated over 800 comments. People are not happy about this.

Nor should they be. But neither should they be going completely apesh*t over it either. For some people, this is the straw that broke the camel’s back. But it’s still a straw – it’s not an anvil.

The Cliff’s Notes on Francoeur, again: promoted to the majors in the middle of the 2005 season, at the age of 21, and was the phenom of phenoms – he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated inside of two months. He swung at everything, but no one cared, because he could hit for average, hit for power, catch everything, and had an arm like you wouldn’t believe.

In 2006 and 2007 he still suffered from a low OBP, but contributed in enough other ways – decent power, very good defense, didn’t miss a single game either year – that he was still a valuable player overall. In 2007 he drew 42 walks. He was still just 23. The following spring, Joe Sheehan and I wrote some fantasy baseball columns for Sports Illustrated, and working independently, we both listed Francoeur as one of our breakout candidates. (Trust me, Joe and I don’t agree on players all that often.)

And since then – complete meltdown. Beyond awful in 2008, to the point where he was sent to Double-A for a few games. Even worse in 2009 until the Braves dumped him on the Mets for Ryan Church. Francoeur had a nice, batting-average-assisted half-season with New York, then in 2010 went back to hitting .250 with no walks and mediocre power.

As Matt Klaassen cannily noted, over the past three seasons, Francoeur has been the fourth-worst everyday hitter in the major leagues. He will be just the third-worst hitter on the Royals, though, as two of the three players below him in the standings are Yuniesky Betancourt and Jason Kendall.

There’s no way to sugarcoat it – over the past three years, Francoeur has sucked. And as a rule of thumb, the simplest way to predict the future is to assume it will resemble the past.

But baseball is not simple. Players are not stat-generating robots; they improve and regress, break out and fall apart. The fact that Francoeur has hit .256/.301/.389 over the last three seasons does not mean that he’s going to hit .256/.301/.389 going forward, just as the fact that he hit .280/.319/.463 in his first three seasons (at the age of 21-23, mind you) didn’t guarantee that he would maintain that performance.

Maybe I’m giving Dayton Moore too much credit, but I feel quite confident in saying that if Moore knew for a fact that Francoeur would hit .256/.301/.389 with the Royals, he wouldn’t have signed him. This signing, then, is based on the expectation that Francoeur will improve. Which he might. He’s not Jose Guillen, signed to a long-term contract at 32, which anecdotally seems to be the most common age for good-not-great hitters to fall off a cliff. Francoeur will be just 27, which is the most common age for players to have the best season of their career.

And, again: it’s a one-year deal. The costs of any player acquisition can be divided into three parts: players, money, and opportunity. In terms of players, the Royals didn’t trade for Francoeur, and they don’t lose any draft picks by signing him. In terms of money, committing $2.5 million to Francoeur simply isn’t enough to inhibit the Royals from making any other move. Maybe I’m giving Moore too much credit, but I can’t foresee a situation in which the Royals find themselves unable to sign Player X, or offer Player Y a long-term contract, or trade for Player Z, because they spent $2.5 million on Jeff Francoeur. If that money wasn’t spent on Francoeur, it would have sat in a brokerage firm earning an annual Wal-Mart dividend.

In terms of opportunity: it’s a one-year deal. Francoeur is guaranteed a roster spot for 2011 – and as deep as the farm system is, the Royals don’t have any premier outfield prospects who might have a claim on that spot. This is nothing like the Mike Jacobs trade, when the Royals buried Kila Ka’aihue in Triple-A.

One of the complaints I’ve read about this deal is that it blocks David Lough from starting in the majors next season. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a good thing. I like Lough a lot, and think he has a chance to be an everyday outfielder in the majors. But Lough hit .280/.346/.437 in Omaha last year, hardly the numbers of someone who’s ready for a full-time job in the majors. (In 2008, Ka’aihue hit .314/.456/.628. Now that’s a player who was ready.)

The reason I’m so intrigued by Lough is that, after being an overly aggressive hitter throughout his minor league career, the light bulb suddenly went on in the middle of 2010. His career high in walks was 35, and in the first three months of 2010, he drew just 10 walks in 66 games. But from July 1st on, Lough drew 30 walks in just 54 games; after the All-Star Break he hit .316/.403/.462. If the improvement is real, he’s legit.

But the danger of letting him spend another half-season in Omaha to prove it was real is nothing compared to the danger of assuming it was real and starting him in right field on Opening Day. In general, I’m in full agreement with Moore’s philosophy that “it’s better to leave a player in the minor leagues for too long than to bring him up too early.” This philosophy was taken to an unhealthy extreme with Ka’aihue, but by and large it’s the right idea. You know who wasn’t left in the minor league for too long? Jeff Francoeur. Francoeur never played a day in Triple-A, and played just 102 games in Double-A when he was brought to Atlanta. He wasn’t exactly tearing the cover off the ball either – he was hitting .275/.322/.487 in Birmingham at the time.

If signing Francoeur accomplishes nothing else, it makes it easier for the Royals to avoid the temptation of bringing some of their players to the major leagues before they’re ready. There’s value in that. Maybe not $2.5 million worth of value, but it’s not negligible.

Then there’s the fact that, purely in terms of roster construction, Francoeur’s skill set fits the team pretty well. The Royals didn’t have a right-handed-hitting outfielder on their 40-man roster. (There’s also the fact that the outfield, as currently constructed, kinda sucks. In a rare moment of self-reflection, someone in the front office admitted as much. “Right now,” one club official said, “based on what our guys have accomplished, we might have the worst outfield in baseball. Now, I’m hoping those guys come through. They have potential, especially Gordon, but we don’t have much you can count on.”)

The only switch-hitter on the roster is Derrick Robinson, who’s not ready. So unless the Royals wanted to go with an all left-handed outfield, or bring up Robinson, or rush Paulo Orlando to the majors, or cross their fingers and hope Jordan Parraz doesn’t suck – they had to find a right-handed outfielder.

They could have traded for one – giving up some of their precious young talent for a stop-gap solution. Or they could sign one in free agency. The Royals wisely chose the latter.

As this article explains, the Royals were looking at no fewer than six options. One of them was Matt Diaz. I love Diaz, always have, and think that the decision to waive him after the 2005 season (the Braves swooped in and offered a nothing prospect to get him) might be the most underappreciated dumb move of Allard Baird’s career. But Diaz hit .250/.302/.438 last season. He turns 33 in March.

Diaz signed with the Pirates, for two years and $4.25 million. Given the opportunity cost – both years and dollars – I’d rather have Francoeur’s contract.

I’m not saying that Francoeur was their best option. (In particular, I’m curious to see what Austin Kearns signs for.) But the notion that signing Francoeur was some sort of calamity – sorry, guys, I’m not seeing it. Francoeur does, in fact, bring some skills to the table. He can hit lefties – he’s a lifetime .299/.343/.481 hitter against southpaws – and play defense. With the exception of 2008, he has graded out as an above-average right fielder; he has roughly average range, but still has one of the best throwing arms in the game. (He has thrown out at least 11 baserunners in every season of his career.)

The Royals, bless their heart, didn’t sign Francoeur to be a platoon player and defensive replacement. They signed Francoeur with the promise that he’ll get every opportunity to be an everyday player. Even for an outfield that their own front office admitted might be the worst in baseball, Francoeur might not be an improvement.

But he might be. He’s 27 years old. From the age of 21 to 23, he was an above-average outfielder. Is it really so ridiculous to suggest he might be able to bounce back? Is it really so ridiculous to give him a one-year contract to see if he can?

Frankly, I’m sort of fascinated to see what will happen. You all know what I think about Kevin Seitzer, and while it’s sort of a cliché to sign a bad hitter and say, “here, Kevin, you fix him,” I think it’s worth a gamble. Seitzer is criticized for emphasizing contact and line drives over power, but that misses the point, which is that what Seitzer also emphasizes is plate discipline. Two years ago, before Seitzer was hired, the Royals had one of the lowest walk totals by a major league team since World War II. Last season, with a bunch of retreads in the lineup for most of the year, the Royals finished a respectable 9th in the league in walks.

More than anything else, a lack of plate discipline has undermined Francoeur’s career. He’s being paired with a hitting coach that stresses plate discipline above almost all else. And he’s being paired with a hitting coach who isn’t afraid to make radical changes in a hitter’s approach. Many hitting coaches use a Hippocratic philosophy of “first, do no harm,” and only tinker with their hitters. One of the main criticisms of Seitzer is precisely because he’s not like that – he’s willing to take the chance of doing harm.

But in Francoeur’s case, there’s no risk of doing harm – he already sucks. Seitzer can hardly make Francoeur worse, but he might – just might – be able to make him better. Seitzer hasn’t had a real success story since Raul Ibanez, but then few players have been willing to surrender themselves to Seitzer’s approach the way Ibanez did.

Ibanez had nothing to lose – he was 29 years old, and his career numbers in the majors were .241/.295/.383. One off-season with Seitzer, and he hit .280/.353/.495 for the Royals in 2001 – his best numbers since he was playing in the California League. He’s been an above-average hitter ever since.

There’s a good chance that even after all his failures, Francoeur won’t surrender to the idea that his approach is broken and needs to be fixed. And even if he does, there’s a good chance that Seitzer won’t be able to fix him. But if he does and he does, well, the raw tools are there for Francoeur to return to being an above-average everyday player.

Which brings me to my main criticism of this contract, which is that while the downside for the Royals is limited, so is the upside. The mutual contract is silly; if Francoeur isn’t worth $4 million, the Royals will decline, and if he’s worth more than $4 million, Francoeur will. In the unlikely but very possible event that Francoeur can be fixed, and he hits .280/.340/.460 or something along those lines, with good defense, the Royals would have a very valuable commodity for 2012 – except that he won’t be under contract. This is a shame, and sort of defeats the purpose.

If Francoeur does rebound, then, the Royals will either have to pony up bigger bucks for an extension – and take the risk that he regresses once again – or let him go. One factor to consider is that if Francoeur rebounds even a little, he’s got a good chance at being a Type B free agent next winter. It’s important to know that the formula the Elias Bureau uses to rank free agents was 1) designed in the 1980s and 2) bears only a passing resemblance to reality. Some of the categories that go into ranking hitters include at-bats (or plate appearances), homers, and RBIs. So according to Elias, Francoeur didn’t have an awful season in 2010; he batted nearly 500 times, hit 13 homers, and drove in 65 runs. This quirk in the system may net the Royals a draft pick, or at least raise Frenchy’s trade value in July.

It’s pretty clear that the Royals have given up on 2011. They traded DeJesus, they’re shopping for stopgap options, and they’re increasingly certain to trade Greinke. As a fan, this hurts – mostly the trading Greinke part. But as an analyst, it absolutely makes sense. The wave of talent coming up through the minors has a chance to be historic, in Royals history if not in major-league history.

If the Royals get a major talent haul for Greinke, then the amount of young talent they bring to the majors in 2012 and 2013 figures to compare with the great youth movements of our generation, like the 2008 Rays, like the 1992-94 Indians, like the 1991-95 Braves. Even if it winds up being a lesser youth movement, like the 2001-02 Twins, that should be enough to set the Royals up for years of contention. If Greinke winds up being the final, spectacular offering to the angry baseball idol that cursed the franchise so many years ago, his sacrifice will not have been in vain.

The problem is that people are getting tired of hearing about 2012, and it’s tempting for the Royals to try to find a way to have their cake and eat it to. They tried that in 2009, signing a bunch of stopgap veterans, and for 29 games it worked. It hasn’t worked since, nor should we expect it to.

The Mission 2012 mantra reminds me of the lightning scene in “Poltergeist”, where the kids count the time between seeing the lightning in a rain storm and hearing the thunder. At first they can count to five, indicating the lightning is still off in the distance – and then they can count to four, then three, and pretty soon their house is under attack. At first Mission 2012 was so far off in the distance that we didn’t even know when it would arrive – and then Moustakas and Hosmer started hitting, and then the Sinister Six all made it to Double-A, and suddenly you could see Mission 2012 in the distance. It’s still in the distance, and I know it feels like it’s never going to get here, but it’s getting closer. I promise.

And the Royals are acting accordingly. Two off-seasons ago, not seeing any young talent on the immediate horizon, Dayton Moore threw his money around like they were beads at Mardi Gras. Two years to Kyle Farnsworth here; two years for Willie Bloomquist there. Trade a reliever for Coco Crisp here; trade a reliever for Mike Jacobs there.

Last year, Moore let Miguel Olivo and John Buck out of their contracts, then signed Jason Kendall for two years – simultaneously hurting the team in 2010 and committing way too much money and playing time to a washed-up catcher in 2011.

This winter, Moore has again committed way too much money and playing time for a player in 2011 – but only 2011. He didn’t give out a two-year deal to Francoeur, and I strongly suspect he won’t be giving out a two-year deal to anyone else. It’s almost like he understands that he’s got all these prospects that are going to deserve a spot on the roster in 2012.

That’s the strangest criticism I’ve heard about Moore in all this – that signing Francoeur just proves that he’s so addicted to veteran players that he’s going to block the progress of all of the Royals’ top prospects when they’re ready. Maybe I’m giving Moore too much credit, but…come…on. Dayton Moore made his bones in drafting and developing players. He’s spent the last four-plus years drafting and developing players – his players. It’s one thing for him to not show faith in the prospects he inherited, like Ka’aihue and Mike Aviles. But does anyone really think that he’s going to make excuses not to bring up Moustakas when he’s ready? That he’s going to bury Eric Hosmer? That he’ll trade away Mike Montgomery for a shiny object?

In the same week where the Rockies signed Ty Wigginton to a two-year deal for $8 million, and the Pirates gave Kevin Correia a two-year deal for $8 million, and the White Sox gave A.J. Pierzynski a two-year for $8 million, getting angry over a 1-year, $2.5 million contract for anybody is sort of silly. The Mariners just signed Miguel Olivo for two years and $7 million, which is especially ridiculous given that they could have bought his option from the Rockies (as the Blue Jays did), exercised the option, and only had to commit $3 million for one year.

But the Royals’ signing of Francoeur gets more derision than any of those moves, because it’s Jeff Freaking Francoeur, and because it’s Dayton Freaking Moore.

Maybe I’m giving Moore too much credit. Maybe, as Sheehan tweeted, I have Stockholm Syndrome. But from where I sit, this move isn’t remotely as bad as most Royals fans think. Even if, thanks to the lack of a true option, it’s not nearly as good as Dayton Moore thinks.

---

Copy and paste everything above, and you can skip what I’m about to write regarding Melky Cabrera. The Royals have signed Cabrera to a one-year, $1.25 million contract with incentives. Cabrera, like Francoeur, was never able to build on his early promise. As a 21-year-old rookie for the Yankees in 2006, Cabrera hit .280/.360/.391. At the end of that season, given his age, defensive versatility, and on-base ability, he was quietly one of the more valuable young commodities around.

It never came together for him; he regressed over the next two seasons, although in 2009 he rebounded to hit a respectable .274/.336/.416. He was the starting centerfielder on a world championship team, and was just 24 years old. But the Yankees being the Yankees, they could do better, and they did – they traded for Curtis Granderson, and sent Cabrera packing as part of the Javier Vazquez trade with Atlanta.

The only part of the last paragraph that matters, apparently, is the last word. Cabrera, like Francoeur, and like so many others before him, is an EX-BRAVE! So naturally this is just Moore being Moore, and so it must be an awful move. Never mind that Moore tried to trade for Cabrera four years ago, and succeeded – the Yankees were willing to trade him for Reggie Sanders before Sanders received his Injury-of-the-Month Club selection in the mail.

I guess it doesn’t matter that Cabrera is still just 26 years old. He might take playing time away from Mitch Maier! Never mind that Cabrera is MORE THAN TWO YEARS YOUNGER than Maier. And never mind that his career line (.267/.328/.379) – IS BETTER THAN MAIER’S (.256/.330/.347). And never mind that Cabrera is a switch-hitter who can play all three outfield positions, and seems to be a roughly average fielder wherever he plays. And never mind that he’s making just $1.25 million.

Cabrera is an ex-Brave. And he was awful in 2010. So signing him is just proof that Dayton Moore has taken a step down from incompetence and has now entered the realm of parody. If you don’t believe me, click this.

I understand the temptation to rip Moore for everything he does. I may have even succumbed to this temptation a time or two myself. But come on, guys. The Royals just signed an incredibly versatile outfielder – hits both ways, plays all three outfield spots – who’s in his mid-20s, who’s been a slightly below-average hitter for most of his career – for $1.25 million. I don’t just like this move – I really like this move. It’s a small transaction, but the Royals just signed a good fourth outfielder for peanuts. And as with Francoeur, there is the small but real possibility that Cabrera re-discovers some of his early promise again.

It would be one thing if the Royals signed Cabrera with the intent of having him eat into Alex Gordon’s playing time. But it appears the Royals want to give Cabrera the chance to complete for the starting job in centerfield. This would cut into the chances that Jarrod Dyson starts in the majors – a very good thing, because even if you think that Dyson can be an everyday player in the majors, you can’t deny that he needs to show he can actually hit in Triple-A first. This might mean that Maier and Gregor Blanco will have to fight for a roster spot – and as I’ve argued since the Royals traded for Blanco, the two players have remarkably similar skill sets, so keeping both is kind of redundant anyway.

I like this signing a lot more than the Francoeur signing, both because Cabrera is only guaranteed half as much money, but also because Cabrera, by virtue of only having 4+ years of service time, is not a free agent at the end of 2011. If he does have a bounce-back year, the Royals can keep him for 2012 at a reasonable cost; if he doesn’t, they can cut him.

Combined, the Royals have guaranteed Francoeur and Cabrera $3.75 million in 2011. By coincidence, they’re paying Jason Kendall $3.75 million in 2011 by himself. They paid Jose Guillen more money than that after he was waived at the end of July. Barry Zito makes more money than that every seven starts or so. Kyle Farnsworth made more than that in each season of his two-year deal.

This isn’t the apocalypse, everyone. This is just the Royals taking a couple of one-year flyers on a couple of hitters who showed promise in their early 20s, and are still in their mid-20s. This is a chance to see what Seitzer, after years of being asked to reinvent a bunch of thirty-something hitters who weren’t that good in the first place, can get through to a couple of players who are old enough to have been humbled, but young enough to make adjustments.

Maybe I’m giving Moore too much credit. But if these are the two worst moves he makes this off-season, he’s had a hell of an off-season. I said before the Winter Meetings began that the best move the Royals could make was to do nothing at all. They didn’t do nothing, but they also didn’t do anything to disrupt the team beyond 2011. Mission 2012 is still on course.

56 comments:

Mac said...

What you may not realize is that Melky Cabrera is now morbidly obese, and the Royals intend to use him in centerfield.

Also, this: http://atlanta.braves.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=10464377

Kansas City said...

Surprisingly favorable take. What I don't understand is why give anyone at bats in 2011 if they are not likely to help in 2012?

On the mutual option, there must be some explanation for it in terms of getting draft picks or something. Moore can't be so stupid that he puts in meaningless provisions. I always thought that Moore should make the option as high as it takes to be a real option, so that if lightening strikes, the Royals can reap the reward. Oh well, I think it is reasonably clear that Moor is not real smart.

Tim said...

With the Melkman in center, Frenchy in right, and Gordon in left, this will be the ultimate all under-achiever outfield.

Mike said...

When you use the phrase "Maybe I'm giving Dayton Moore too much credit" 26 times in one blog entry it seems likely that you are in fact doing just that.

Big Hatt said...

Yes, Rany, you are giving Dayton Moore too much credit.

You know damn well the reason people are so upset about this, and it isn't because of its practical effect on the team in 2011. It's because this was just so damn predictable. We've all known Dayton was going to sign Franceour for about two years now (ever since it became clear he was really bad). You really shouldn't be able to point to a bad player, say with all confidence "my GM will sign him" and then watch as it happens.

People are right to be upset. This is a bitter punchline to a joke years in the making.

q said...

I'm fine with the Frenchy signing. I'm surprised there is such an uproar. One year for super cheap is terrific. I think its shows great restraint. People will enjoy watching him play. Melky on the other hand is horrible. Your logic makes sense, but the problem is Melky the person is nothing like your anecdotal example. He had one good year. His minor league stats aren't that good. He had some exposure in the playoffs and has been overrated ever since.

Danny said...

Wow. I made a comment on your last Chiefs post--right after the signing--about Frenchy making reasonable sense.

I figured after the reasonable Rany argument + the reasoning of the general upside/possible trade/FA benefits would convince people. I was even going to make a "turncoat" joke. Probably doesn't make sense now since people are implying such negative feelings--even if they are using smarter* language.

*less dumb

Francouer is an okay move, even if predictable on every level. The real downside is that DM probably moved DDJ more quickly than he should have to make room. I am generally fine with this.

My concern is with the Melky move. I don't mind Dyson in AAA, but Melky seems to have regressed physically. I don't see the upside anymore. Maier has stayed fit and seen his stats improve (though he has likely hit his below avg. ceiling) whereas Cabrera really seems like a waste of money. He is doing Maier's job (4th outfielder) because Blanco is absolutely better in CF, is doing it for more money, and probably slightly worse.

I get the previous upside at a younger age, but he appears to be LOSING his physique. Even at Mitch's higher age, he is in shape at an "in shape" position. I am a little afraid that he is preparing to move Gordon--though I am hoping this is just an additional piece of leverage. Expensive, crappy leverage. And worse yet, if Lough continues to succeed, this is one more stone to move before he gets to the big leagues. This increases the chances of a blockage.

These moves reek of last year. Sign Ankiel and Pods (predictable--but not an inherent bad thing). People hate it, I am okay with the predictabilty because it might mean trades (AND IT DID!). Also, sign Anderson--even though we don't need another outfielder who clearly won't pan out. I'm on board with Jeff--but I am awfully skeptical of Melky and his useless, fat blocking--regardless of his age. He might be 26, but he eats like a much older man.

Charles said...

Why do so many just figure the moves are ok because "Dayton can just flip them at the deadline?"

Flip them for what? Podsednik got flipped for a few mid-level prospects - nothing too hot. And Ankiel did NOT get flipped for Collins; that required Ankiel and Farnsworth.

Sure, none of this makes the team significantly worse in 2011, but it scares me nonetheless. Every team has a few marginal players. Are ALL Royal marginals going to have poor OBP's? That seems to be Dayton's type of marginal player. When that is the defining characteristic of your team, maybe your marginal players should NOT have that characteristic.

We just traded away our #2 OBP from last year. We brought in 2 of the 6 worst in the majors. And we already had two of the others... Isn't this the definition of fail?

Charles said...

Not mentioned in my last: when the prospects come up maybe we won't have poor OBP as our defining characteristic... but if Dayton ever needs to add some players to the mix, I fear it will be all poor OBP types.

Old Man Duggan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Old Man Duggan said...

I know we're dealing with a small sample size, but Melky's defense looks like it was atrocious in 2010.

Frank said...

Diaz signed with the Pirates, for two years and $4.25 million. Given the opportunity cost – both years and dollars – I’d rather have Francoeur’s contract.

Once you were a good writer and I respected you a lot. But crap like this makes it harder and harder for me to read your blog. Diaz hit .250/.302/.438 last season, yeah, but it was his worst season of the last 5 years. No mention of that. And he was hurt. No mention of that. Just bad, bad writing.

Oh, and Frenchy hit .256/.301/.389 over the last three f**ing years!! Even worse than Diaz' worst year.

Crawl out of Moore's ass, Rany!

Cronopio said...

"But in Francoeur’s case, there’s no risk of doing harm – he already sucks."

Nice.

bbxpert said...

Jordan Parraz is now with Boston. Claimed off waivers.

Tony said...

A voice of reason.... THANKS Rany! 2012 can't get here soon enough! I view these moves as low-risk, high reward. Either Frenchy or Melky could light it up and be cogs in the 2012+ outfield. Or not. Leaving roster space for Lough/Orlando/Blanco -- whoever. Palatable move.

Kansas City said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kansas City said...

Several points.

1. This is what Joel Sherman of the New York Post says about the possibility of the Yankees trading for Greinke: "The price on Kansas City’s Zack Grienke is exorbitant, and the Yankees don’t believe the righty could handle New York."

Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/sports/yankees/girardi_makes_bombers_desperation_2y1tIhfpFah3Z98t7we2JK#ixzz17oiTZDQQ

2. It is absolutely crazy for the Yankees to consider a 7 year contract, or even for the Rangers to consider a 6 year contract for a 32 year old pitcher like Cliff Lee. There is no chance that he will be a top of the line pitcher for the last 2 to 4 years of the contract. Why can't baseball executives see that?

3. Somehow, Moore has acquired 4 of the worst 6 hitters in baseball and made them regulars in the line up. The first reaction is no way, it must be a joke. But it is true. I guess I could accept that Moore somehow does not understand the importance of OBP, but doesn't he at least read enough to know that he will be mercifully mocked for continuing to bring on low OBP guys?

4. I hope the Yankees do not get Lee (but they almost surely will), because that would make them crazy for Greinke and pay too much for him.

Kansas City said...

One last point. If guys like Francour, Cabrerra, Betancort or Kendall are virtually certain to perform at a low level based on past performance (or Francour or Cabrerra surprise us and perform better, they will get away the next year), why not just give our own guys like Maier a shot and see if they are really going to be as bad as the guys Moore is acquired.

Nathan said...

There's nothing genuinely objectionable about either of these signings. People are upset about them solely because they think they're peering into Dayton Moore's dark, dark, soul.

I think that objections based on hypothetical future bungles should be saved until said bungles occur.

John said...

Both Francoeur and Cabrera are players who showed a lot of early promise and then lost their way, but are young enough to recover. Players like that don't always bounce back, and even if they do, they don't always come all the way back.

That said, until the prospects are ready to come up, what have the Royals got to lose? It's a couple of cheap lottery tickets, and if you're lucky one of them will hit.

Kansas City said...

Nathan:

What is "genuinely objectionable about either of these signings" is that we are a bad team signing players with clearly weak past batting records to one year deals (even if they somehow change and have a good year, we will lose them) where there is very little potential upside.

We would be better off giving Maier and other guys on the roster a chance, where they will either be just as bad as Francour and Cabrerra or they will be better and we can keep them.

The repition of mistakenly signing low OBP guys makes if far worse. As I said before, Moore has 4 of the worst 6 hitters in baseball in his line up. How could someone do that?

Willis said...

This feels weird to say, but I wonder if one of the flaws in the Francoeur contract is that it isn't longer. If Francoeur actually does save his career, the Royals will be left with no reward for it, other than the chronically over-valued comp pick. There's actually very little reward possible in this deal.

George said...

You know who else was once a top prospect and had never reached their potential despite still being in their mid-20's? Wilson Betemit. How'd that work out for us last year? Why not find out what Frenchy and Cabrera can do on one year deals? It's costing us the same as Kendall and it's not blocking any young talent (including Blanco and Maier).

Charles said...

George,
Betemit was signed to a minor league deal. If Frenchy and Cabrera had been signed to minor league deals none of us would say the things we are saying

ScottM said...

What have you done with the real Rany? You know the one that understood sabermetrics? And more importantly the one that lead the crusade for the Royals to actually use them?

Trivia Question:Believe it or not, we as Royals fans have seen Jeff Franceour in Royal blue. Well a player almost exactly like him. Can you name this player? (see below for the answer)

With that out of the way, lets really look at these two signings. First off, in a vaccuum, I don't think either is a complete waste. But we also don't live in a vaccuum. In the real world, these are bad moves, heck even very bad moves.

Now onto Cabrera. $1.25 mil is pretty cheap for a 4th OF. In reality though, the Royals already have two (Maier and Blanco) of these that make less combined, and each projects out to be better defensively and nearly identical offensively. You mention that keeping both is redundant. Acquiring Melky Cabrera is more then that. It's doing it in triplicate. Hell even the US government cut back on its waste by no longer requiring everything done in triplicate. This doesn't even account for the fact that Cabrera seems to be regressing at a far faster rate then is expected. On the defensive side, that could be counter acted by him losing some weight (he is about 15 lbs heavier then when he was a young Yankee).

I had a nice long "Frenchy" diatribe. However I decided rather then say what most others have, I would go with two short points and then the trivia question answer. Hitters, particularly good ones, typically get better plate discipline mostly through pitch recognition that comes with experience. Frenchy actually had his worst season for that last season, yes he actually got worse at something he was nearly the worst at in baseball. Outside of Vlad, nobody swings at as many balls and sticks around long. Second his power actually seems to be declining, which also is happening at a much younger age then is typical.

TRIVIA ANSWER: MARK QUINN cometh back to the K. I know they are not the same player. However they are damned close on those pesky little things like taking pitches, drawing walks, you know not making outs in general.

Nathan said...

A free-agent signing cannot be a disaster when the the total outlay is only $2.5 million. It just can't be done. The outrage is totally out of proportion, because the risk is small.

The upside is also small, but it's not smaller than $2.5 million. Francour could very well imitate a major league hitter for three months, and be flipped to a contender for a prospect. That prospect is bound to be worth at least as much as this contract, to an up-and-coming team like the Royals. Meanwhile, the odds of Mitch Meier suddenly becoming a commodity are practically nil.

ScottM said...

To me this is not about Jeff Franceour as much as it is about DM, and his inadequacies.

GMDM refuses to look at/approach talent acquisition in anyway, but how it was done in the past. He is not progressive nor innovative. This works awesomely for the big money teams, but not so well when trying to work within the Royals payroll limitations. He also refuses to give credence to any advanced statistical analysis even though that certain things have been proven to be beneficial to team success long term.

Michael said...

Ok, I'm so sick of hearing people say that Mitch Freaking Maier deserves a shot over ______. There's one HUGE problem with that statement. MITCH MAIER SUCKS! He's not an every day outfielder. His career OPS is under .700! The chances that Francouer and Melky will rebound to decent players is much better than the chance that Maier will develop into a useful every day player. Stop with the Mitch Maier deserves a shot crap.

Kansas City said...

Melky is not that bad a signing, since the Royals have him tied up for two years if they want him. Arbitration for the second year.

Charles said...

Michael,
First you should NOT use just raw OPS when OPS+ is available. Maybe we could use this... Career OPS+ Frenchy 91, Maier 84. And as this is normalized to leagues and the AL is generally about 9% stronger than the NL we could normalize both of these numbers: increase Maier by 9% and he is at .... hmmm, 91. So career OPS+ is identical. Add to this the fact that since both numbers SUCK (as you put it) we should then figure which has sucked more.... and the answer is Frenchy 3443 PAs vs 930 for Maier. The one most likely to continue suckage is Frenchy.

Add to this that Maier can play CF and Frenchy can't (except maybe in Dayton's dream land where Ankiel can play CF) and you just get a picture that Frenchy is beyond worthless....

And that 91 OPS+ was achieved with a 126 in his rookie season.

Morgan said...

I wouldn't mind either the Melky or Frenchy signing in a vacuum. Unfortunately, we aren't in one.

Moore basically traded DJ away for a mediocre pitcher, and then used the money he saved by trading our best outfielder (and all around position player) to sign 2 bad outfielders. I have little reason to believe that the combination of Mazzaro, Melky and Frenchy will provide as much production as DJ did by himself next year (and I'm 50/50 on whether those three and Marks will even match his production of next year for their entire Royal's career combined).

Add that to the fact that last year both Blanco and Maier outperformed Melky and Frenchy last year, and bested anything Frenchy has done for the past 3 years, and I really don't understand this.

Was the need for a RH outfielder really that great? Especially since Maier has historically had reverse platoon splits?

While nothing DM has done this offseason has been a big calamity like trading for Yuni or signing Guillen, everything DM has done has just seemed utterly pointless. And really, should we be putting a feather in the cap of a general manager when the best thing you can say about him is that he made pointless moves?

Michael said...

Charles, you nitwit, OPS+ is really only so you can tell how good someone's season is compared to other seasons from another era. Like comparing Bonds 2001 season to Maris' 61 season, for example.

Maier and Francouer have played in the same era. And while what league they play in makes a big difference for pitchers numbers, it doesn't make a huge difference for hitters.

Also, Francouer has shown the ability to hit in the majors before. Granted, it's almost 5 years ago, but he has done it before. Maier hasn't. And Frenchy is also 1 1/2 years younger than Maier.

Bottom line, Maier sucks. So does Frenchy, but at least he has shown a glimpse of above average play before. For 2.5 mil, give him the shot to rebound. If he does, great, flip him at the deadline for a prospect or 2. If he doesn't, oh well, see you later. Nothing lost except a little money.

Charles said...

Michael,
You dumbass. It can also be used to "normalize." You know what that means? It means that this stat corrects for homefield. Maier's OPS is worse than Francoeur's IN PART because Maier has played all of his career in a neutral park where Francoeur has played most of his in hitter's environs (ATL and TEX). I don't have a read on Citi yet.

Maybe you can bring an argument when you LEARN TO THINK.

Charles said...

And here's a particularly ridiculous comment:
While what league they play in can make a difference for pitchers numbers it doesn't for hitters...

HOW is that possible?

Michael said...

The reason it makes such a big difference for pitchers is because they get to pitch to pitchers, not DH's. For it to make a difference like that for hitters, every nine batters a position player would have to go to the mound.

Hitters face major league pitchers regardless of which league they are in.

I still would love to know what tool Mitch Maier has that makes anyone think he could even remotely resemble a player worthy of playing every day. In a career year last year, his OPS was .709. That's his career best!!

Bottom line, Mitch Maier sucks. And he's getting old. It's not like we're talking about a 23 year old prospect here. If you go into an offseason with someone like him and DON'T try to improve on that, then you seriously should lose your job.

Michael said...

Just to be clear, though, I'm not a fan of the Francouer signing. But I'm even less of a fan of those that say we shouldn't have signed him because Mitch Maier deserves a shot at starting.

Pogue009 said...

Frankly there just is not much in the way of value available in the FA market this year, outside of Lance Berkman, and maybe Jack Cust there has not been a lot to crow about this offseason in the FA department.

That said the trade market seems to have gone crazy with San Diego, Atlanta and the Orioles recieved some nice pieces for not a huge investment

Nathan said...

There's a scouting angle to this too. Show me a scout who thinks Meier has more breakout potential than Francour, and I might start thinking the Royals should start Meier in right field next year.

But the main point is: this is $2.5 million and the only player who might be blocked out of a job is MITCH MEIER. This is not a disaster. It begs the question why so many people are outraged. The answer is that they're projecting their fear of large future errors onto what might be regarded as a small present error. Which is none too rational.

Rick said...

While I don't have anything to add about Frenchy, what I've read about Melky from some who have knowledge of the Yankees says he's not much of an influence in the clubhouse. There are those who have said that one of the reasons for Cano's breakout is that Melky wasn't there to reinforce bad habits. How is that going to play out when Moose gets here midseason? I know the info is something like 7th hand, but it's something to think about.

kcghost said...

Frenchy and Melky are now Royals (sigh). I just don't see how this is a good thing.

twm said...

Looking forward to Rany's next ramble about the Chiefs' playoff odds now. Being a doctor might help here, as he odds are probably heavily influenced by how quickly Cassel can return from the appendectomy. Do we know whether his was an open surgery or done laparoscopically? I hear that makes a difference. Basically, though, I would expect his torso to be sore and tender for at least a couple weeks, right? With so little left in the season, do they shut him down and avoid the risk of his appendectomy wound becoming a serious problem? I would think so, given the longterm investment in Cassel and the slim chance of a playoff spot.

All things I am interested in reading about, and who better to discuss them than a statistically oriented sports commentator who also happens to be a doctor?

Kyle said...

Shut Cassel down for the year b/c of an appendectomy? I sure hope not. And a slim chance at the playoffs? They are first place right now. I think that still gives them a pretty decent shot at the playoffs. Hopefully Cassel is back for the Rams game. They need to win out, but I still think that is possible. 2 home games and a road game on a weak young team from the NFC West.

Kyle said...

Francoeur and Cabrera are upgrades over Maier and Blanco, but I still am not a huge fan of these signings. Not that they were too much money, or that they could have saved it for someone else. It just worries me that Moore is too in love with skill sets and tools. This signing makes an already bad OBP team even worse. Hopefully, you are right, and Seitzer can work his magic. There are alot of big if's that have to happen for this team not to lose 100 games.

If Hochevar keeps working and figures it out. Not just Hochevar, but O'Sullivan, Davies, Mazzaro, and maybe even Chen.

If Gordon, and his group of 27 year olds finally have their breakout years. That is Kila, Francoeur, and Cabrera.

If Moustakas and Hosmer, and the other prospects keep building and get their shots in KC.

twm said...

Maybe I shouldn't have said slim. How about increasingly unlikely?

Cassel might return for the St Louis game, but that strikes me as too soon, maybe even recklessly so. Not being a doctor, and knowing little of Cassel's current condition, this is perhaps unwarranted speculation, but from my understanding of appendectomies, best case scenario is 10 days before he can return to normal activities. With surgery on Wednesday, that puts him at next Saturday before he can practice. Hard to see him playing against St Louis on Sunday.

And given yesterday's performance, it is hard to imagine the Chiefs winning against St Louis with Croyle at the helm.

So then they need to win out, right?

And will Cassel be ready to play? I don't know. Like I said, I don't know if his surgery was open or laparoscopic. If the former, there is the chance that they had to cut his abdominal wall, and there is no easy comeback from that...you need rest and you need to protect/nurture your abs, neither of which would happen on the football field.

Maybe, if his surgery was laparoscopic (and I assume it was), Cassel might return for the Tennessee game. But what condition would he be in? Could he take a hit?

Is it worth the gamble, rest Cassel and hope Croyle gets it done against TN? Tennessee should be beatable, maybe even without Cassel.

I don't know. I really don't know what to think about playing Cassel so soon after surgery.

Kyle said...

If the Chiefs lose one more game, and the Chargers win out, the Chiefs don't make the playoffs. So if Cassel can't play in St. Louis, the Chiefs don't make the playoffs. I wish I could find someone that thoughtCroyle was better than Cassel, so that I can ring their neck. The Rams game is winable without Cassel, but I like their odds alot better with him in the game. Charles and Jones won't be shutdown like that two games in a row.

Robert Rittner said...

Were I a Royals fan, my concern would not be specifically that he signed these 2 players. Of course, as players good enough even to sniff the majors, they may develop. My concern is rather that I would worry whether Moore has any notion of what kind of major league team he wants to build. Or if he is blindly throwing darts at the board hoping to hit a bullseye now and then.

You mention the Rays. Consider. Here are some of the players the Rays either signed or traded for in the last 4 years: Ruggiano, Pedroza, Zobrist, Pena, Choi, Navarro, Branyan, Burrell, Norton, Joyce, Gross, Floyd, Hinske, Aybar, Dan Johnson, Kapler, Shoppach, Sean Rodriguez

What do they all have in common? After all, most were full out failures or were only minor cogs. But with a few exceptions (Joel Guzman), every one had a history of good to excellent plate discipline. Even Navarro had such a history and Sean Rodriguez did too in the minors.

The Rays have been clear as to what skills they prized. But what is Moore looking for? What is there about Francouer and Cabrera beyond the gambler's hope that they can be fixed or will rebound? It is not a question about wasting money or recognizing that they have looked good at times. It is a question whether he is thinking about the kinds of players he wants and sorts through the options to find them.

Michael said...

TWM-You don't shut down Cassel, and therefore the season, because you expect the Chargers to win out and you expect to lose another game. That would be flat out giving up, and that would not sit well with fans at all. Nor would it sit well with the players who have worked their asses off to put them in this position of even dreaming of the playoffs. When you are this close, you don't give up, end of story. It's stupid to even suggest such a thing.

Rick, I don't know what rock you've been hiding under, but Robinson Cano has been a good player for a few years now. In 2009, he hit .320 with 25 homers with Melky on the team. Last year, .319 and 29. Not a huge difference. The only big difference was in RBI's, but we all know RBI is more a stat of opportunities than anything else. For the record, he also had other productive seasons other than 2009 with Melky on the team.

twm said...

Well, calling me stupid might be a bit harsh. But okay.

Maybe I should rephrase. My main concern is that rushing Cassel back might re-aggravate his surgical wound, and cause a more long-term issue. I mentioned the thinning chance of a playoff berth as just another element to be weighed, as in maybe bringing him back earlier is worth more if the chances of making the playoffs are higher.

That's just me, though. Clearly, for some, the chances of greater injury never justify shutting down a quarterback so long the playoffs are a possibility.

I looked up some recovery times for appendectomy, and it is seeming more like Cassel won't be back this season. One website says that heavy athletic activity shouldn't be resumed for three to six weeks, and that is in the best case scenario, according to that website.

twm said...

Big Ben underwent an appendectomy and returned in a game 15 days later. The St Louis game would be only 11 days after Cassel's surgery, but maybe he can make it back.

Michael said...

I think it's possible we could beat St. Louis without Cassel, if they don't play super-conservative like they did against San Diego. If they can do that and give him the extra week of healing time, that would be the best case scenario. Then he comes back for the Tennessee and Oakland games to wrap up the year, and hopefully, the division!

John said...

Looks like Cliff Lee is returning to Philly. The Royals now have the hottest pitching commodity out there, and at least two teams desperate for another top starter.

We're about to find out if the Royals' GM is Dayton Moore, or if he really is Dayton Mooreon.

ScottM said...

Robert

Thanks for hitting the nail on the head about what most of the people that truly hate these moves is about. That is the one factor that I had left out in previous responses for some reason.

Michael said...

What I got from Robert was that since the Royals and Moore obviously don't worry too much about plate discipline, they don't know what kind of team they are building.

But to me, it's quite obvious the kind of player Moore wants. He wants leaders, players with passion for the game. He also values "tools" and scouting reports over sabremetrics.

Just because they don't value plate discipline like some other teams do doesn't mean they have no clue what they are doing.

Personally, I value plate discipline more than the Royals do, but not nearly as much as some on here do. Some make it the only priority, forget all the other stats. For instance, if Francouer comes in here and hits 25 homers and drives in 90 runs, I'll be happy with him, even if his OBP is .310. If his OBP is .310 and he only hits 12 homers and drives in 60, then I'll be disappointed. (assuming both are with 500+ plate appearances)

Charles said...

Nathan,
You say that those who criticize Francoeur/Cabrera signings are projecting too much fear from this onto future moves. I think you are mistaken; the fear isn't based on JUST this pair of signings. Review: Guillen, Olivo, Francoeur, Cabrera, Podsednik, Ankiel, Betancourt, Jacobs, Bloomquist. What do these guys have in common? Poor plate discipline/approach. The exceptions to this rule (such as they are) are Callaspo, Kendall, Betemit. These guys are all fringe guys. One can't hit at all(Kendall); one almost didn't get a shot but poor play by everyone around him gave him one (Callaspo - anyone else remember the attempt to jam Teahen at 2b?) and one signed to a minor league deal (Betamit). This is not about one or two signings. This is a pattern.

What's even more irritating is that this pattern goes back forever in Royals history. For 30 years they've been terrible in this area. When we brought Mark Teahen into the fold (yes, this Baird's Royals but bear with me) the scouts COMPLAINED about his patience. MARK TEAHEN! So, that's what we battle here. The organization has been anti-plate-discipline. So, what is needed is a GM who fights the worst tendency of the organization.....

So what do we have? A GM who re-inforces that worst tendency. Who doesn't get an opportunity for years? Ka'aihue. Who gets blamed for faults small and large for a long time? Butler. Who gets the label of too much smiling? DeJesus. What do these guys have in common? They all walk at a league average or even slightly better rate. Hmmmm. This organization is dysfunctional. And Dayton is re-enforcing the dysfunction.

That's the problem. It's not about projecting from one or two signings.

Robert Rittner said...

No, Michael. It is not my point that the GM should value plate discipline. I only used that to point out that in one case it is possible to trace a consistent approach to team building, whatever that approach is.

But what is Moore's approach? Team leaders and players with a passion for the game? Is that Melky Cabrera who practically got run out of Atlanta for not caring? Or Guillen? And even if he is concerned about such things, should that trump skills?

Perhaps he does look at tools, but again, I don't see much upside in Cabrera's tools or for that matter in Francouer's. Each may have once shown some ability, but that is what strikes me as blindly aiming at a dart board in Moore. Is there any reason to think they really have that ability beyond a brief encounter, a while ago, with them?

So it is not specifically that he spent on these players but that he did so when it is likely other more promising players with tools or leadership or passion are available. It is an opportunity cost issue, one that raises questions about priorities and judgment, not a spending issue in a vacuum.

Either or both may work out. But in my view, they are the sort of players you sign to minor league deals with an invite to ST while seeking more promising talent for the major league roster now. And if someone else snatches them, so what?

ScottM said...

Again Robert is quite on track. I can live without OBP being the focus of a team (although it would drive me crazy), if there were an actual focus.

Baseball is a game of numbers. There is only one number in it that is truly finite: 3. There are 3 outs per half inning, everything else is negotiable to some extent.

The only common thread I can find during his tenure is a very, very scary one. GMDM has a total disregard for anything approaching plate discipline. Apparently the Royals organizational focus is on free swinging hackers. (Yes there is some sarcasm there but not near as much as you would hope)