Monday, August 22, 2011

Francoeur Forever.

We can argue the merits of the deal all day long. But I think we can all agree one thing: it was inevitable.

Having landed his white whale last winter, Dayton Moore wasn’t about to let Jeff Francoeur go. One year turned into three; after paying just $2.5 million (with some incentives) to secure Francoeur’s services for 2011, the Royals will be paying him $13.5 million to keep him in town for 2012 and 2013.

And like almost every move Moore makes, I’m deeply ambivalent about the signing. In the first 24 hours after the deal, I probably changed my position a half-dozen times. Ultimately, though, I have decided I am against the extension. I’m not vociferously against it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it works out, but I think the odds are against it. But the reasons why I’m against the extension are probably not what you think.

There are two questions that have to be asked of the extension:

1) Is Jeff Francoeur worth $13.5 million over the next two years?
2) Is Jeff Francoeur a good fit for the Kansas City Royals over the next two years?

My answer to the first question is decidedly more neutral than most members of the sabermetric community. But then, I’ve been out of lock-step with the sabermetric community on Francoeur for over two years now, ever since I advocated that the Royals acquire him. Francoeur is a flashpoint in the still-simmering battle between scouts and stats. He is a player with undeniable skills – he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated at the age of 21 for a reason – and equally undeniable flaws.

From 2008 to 2010, from the ages of 24 to 26, Francoeur hit .256/.301/.389 and was one of the worst everyday players in baseball. His 2008 season, when he hit .239/.294/.359 with bad defense in right field, ranks (according to Baseball Reference) as one of the ten worst seasons by any hitter in the last 50 years. It was worse than Neifi Perez’s 2002 season, which seems hard to believe.

Nonetheless, Francoeur has been an everyday player for virtually his entire career, in part because teams still see his underlying tools, and in part because of his vivacious personality. Francoeur clearly got more opportunities than his performance has warranted – but just as clearly, the sabermetric establishment has tried to overcorrect for his reputation. I have no argument with the way analysts have consistently portrayed his performance over the last five years as beyond wretched – I agree with it.

But it’s one thing to say Francoeur is wretched – it’s another to say he is beyond redemption. Players aren’t static creatures, and they are capable of improvement, particularly when they are still in their mid-20s. Francoeur is no exception to that rule, but at times he has been treated that way, as when the Royals signed him this winter. Most – certainly not all – analysts thought it was a terrible move for the Royals, even though it was just a one-year commitment, and it wasn’t a lot of money, and the Royals had no better internal options.

Even when Francoeur got off to a great start this season, it was written off as typical Frenchy, always hitting well in his first month with his new team before reverting back to form. (Which is true, but in lieu of an actual explanation for why he would choose to suck after his first month, I failed to see why we should assume Francoeur was just baiting us.) And when Francoeur slumped in May and June, the conventional wisdom was that he was returning to his true talent level.

But since July 1st, Francoeur has disrupted the narrative. Here’s his monthly splits:

April: .314/.357/.569
May: .233/.287/.388
June: .235/.280/.367
July: .306/.377/.531
August: .306/.351/.458

For the season, he’s hitting .277/.330/.463, good for an OPS+ of 119, in a non-trivial sample size of 123 games. And I would submit that if someone named “Jeff Spainoeur” were a 27-year-old rightfielder with a cannon arm, and was hitting .277/.330/.463, and was an impending free agent, and his team signed him to a 2-year, $13.5 million extension…the reaction from most analysts wouldn’t be nearly so negative. It might, in fact, be positive.

That’s a red herring of sorts, because Jeff Spainoeur wasn’t one of the worst players in the game from 2008 to 2010, and Jeff Francoeur was, and past performance matters. By giving him a two-year extension, the Royals are basically gambling $13.5 million that, in this case, past performance doesn’t matter.

And that’s really the question here. If Francoeur plays as well in 2012 and 2013 as he has in 2011 – no better – he will justify this contract and then some. If he regresses even a little towards his performance the last three years, he’ll be an overpriced albatross.

So let’s break down his performance this year. What stands out to me is that – with the notable exception of his steals (he has 19 already, after having never stolen more than eight in any previous season) – Francoeur isn’t doing anything that out of character for him. He’s hitting .277; his career average is .269. He’s on pace for 19 homers, matching the number he hit as a 23-year-old in 2007; as a 22-year-old, he hit 29 homers. He’s hit 37 doubles and is on pace for about 45, which would be a career high; on the other hand, he’s hit over 30 doubles in three of the last four years.

He is on pace for 45 walks – breaking his career high of 42 – and 124 strikeouts, close to his career high of 132. He hasn’t struck out over 100 times in a season since 2008. If anything, it appears Francoeur made too much contact the last few years, or at least too much weak contact. His strikeout rate is back where it was from 2005 to 2007, when he was a decent player. Overall, he has the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of his career, but it’s not dramatically out of line with his past.

Aside from his steals, there’s nothing in Francoeur’s performance that seems unsustainable – and the Royals aren’t paying him $13.5 million because of his ability to steal bases. His improvements are subtle, but they’re across-the-board, and they’re made more impressive by the fact we’ve entered a low-offense era. Consider this:

2007: .293/.338/.444, 102 OPS+
2011: .277/.330/.463, 119 OPS+

In terms of raw offensive numbers, Francoeur is hitting almost exactly the same this year as he did four years ago – he’s traded eight points of OBP for 19 points of slugging. But the value of his performance is dramatically different – in 2007 he was essentially a league-average hitter, while in 2011 the same numbers are well above-average.

If you’re looking for numbers that will support the conclusion that he’s having a fluke season, your best bet is to look at his platoon splits. Most of the improvement Francoeur has shown this season has come against left-handed pitching – he is crushing them to the tune of .315/.378/.604. His OPS against southpaws this season is 141 points higher than his career numbers of .300/.347/.494. Against right-handed pitching, he’s only slightly better this season (.265/.314/.420) than his career line (.257/.299/.405).

On the other hand, hits against left-handed pitchers still count on the scoreboard. I’d be more concerned if his numbers this year were skewed by facing more left-handed pitchers than he normally does, but he’s actually faced left-handed pitching slightly less often (24% of the time) in 2011 than for his career (28%) as a whole. Basically, Francoeur is a league-average hitter against right-handed pitching, and an All-Star against left-handers.

Looking at Fangraphs’ pitch data, one thing stands out about Francoeur’s performance this season. While he swings at pitches outside the strike zone as much as always – he’s taken a hack at 40% of pitches outside the zone, a little higher than his career average of 38% – he has swung at pitches inside the strike zone at the lowest rate of his career. Francoeur has tried his luck against just 72% of pitches inside the zone, compared to a career average of 80%.

He’s still more aggressive than the average hitter – the typical batter swings at only 65% of pitches in the strike zone. But this fits with the theory that Francoeur isn’t succeeding by making more contact – he’s succeeding by making better contact, or more precisely, by not swinging at pitches that he can’t do anything with other than pop up or ground out weakly.

I don’t know if his performance is sustainable – but there is nothing about his performance that suggests it isn’t. And, again: he’s 27 years old. Alex Gordon is 27 years old, and he’s having a season that’s more out of character with his previous career than Francoeur is. (Last year, both Gordon and Francoeur had an OPS+ of 84 – but this year, Gordon’s OPS+ is 139.) Few people think Gordon’s improvement is a fluke. Sure, that’s because Gordon was a stud in the minor leagues – but it was just one season, and if we’re going to talk about just one season, then Francoeur was a stud in the major leagues at an age when Gordon was still a college junior. Gordon showed promise as a sophomore in the majors – but there’s hardly any difference between Gordon’s 2008 and Francoeur’s 2007.

The main reason people take Gordon’s performance more seriously than Francoeur’s is because Gordon knows the strike zone. That’s a valuable skill, but there are players who can succeed without plate discipline, and we shouldn’t discount Francoeur’s performance simply because he’s swing-happy. And the other reason why we take Gordon’s performance more seriously is that it’s coming on the heels of only two bad seasons, while Francoeur has had three in a row. But again: they’re both 27 years old. I don’t think it’s fair to penalize Francoeur because he was an above-average player in the majors at a younger age than Gordon was.

With all that said, I think the Royals overpaid a little. Francoeur’s having a good season at the plate, but he’s a rightfielder; most of them have. Of the 30 rightfielders in baseball who have played in 80 or more games, Francoeur ranks just 12th in OPS+. His defense is good but overrated – his arm, which is legitimately great, is not matched by his range, which is average or maybe a tick below.

He gets points for his durability; I don’t think Francoeur has ever been on the DL. Add it all up, though, and I thought Francoeur was likely to earn somewhere between $10 and $12 million over the next two years. He got $13.5 million instead. That’s not a huge overpay, but the Royals didn’t get any kind of Dayton Moore discount either. If Francoeur continues to play at the level he has sustained over the last four months, he’ll earn his money and more. But at this salary, I think the upside is limited. The downside, given Francoeur’s history, is considerable.

The downside is limited by one thing: it’s only a two-year deal. Francoeur will not have turned 30 by the time he’s a free agent. It’s nearly impossible to hand out a bad one-year deal, and even with a two-year contract it’s pretty difficult. The most overpriced part of any contract is the final year of the deal. I was worried that Moore would go three years or even longer in order to keep Francoeur in tow, particularly with Wil Myers struggling in Double-A. By signing Francoeur for just two years, Moore keeps the Royals from paying for his decline, and sets up a graceful transition to Wil Myers in late 2013 or at the beginning of 2014.

Add up all the pros and cons, and I come to the conclusion that it’s a fair deal for both sides. The Royals paid Francoeur his market value, more or less.

And with all that, I don’t like the deal.

The first reason for my skepticism is this: why now? Why hand out a multi-year deal in the middle of the season? This wouldn’t bother me so much if the Royals didn’t have an official policy of not negotiating contracts during the season. I mean, just last week we heard the happy news that the Royals had expressed to Alex Gordon their interest in discussing a long-term contract after the season, and he had expressed an interest to reciprocate. That’s terrific news – a long-term contract for Gordon should be the Royals’ #1 priority this off-season – but it raises the question: why did the Royals make Francoeur’s contract extension a higher priority than Gordon’s?

There are two possibilities. One is that Francoeur came to the Royals with an interest to sign a contract, which is the exception to the team’s policy, as they also did an in-season deal with Joakim Soria. But Soria’s contract, as everyone in baseball knows, was a very club-friendly deal. This contract isn’t. Francoeur got market value.

The other possibility is that the Royals were just so freaked out about Francoeur reaching free agency this winter that they were determined to sign him before he could test the market. If that’s the case – I mean, come on. Francoeur’s having a nice comeback season, but it’s not like he’s hitting like an All-Star. Factor in the possibility that he could go back to being the hitter that got chased out of Atlanta by a pitchfork-wielding mob, and a 2-year, $13.5 million contract was probably about as well as he could do.

This looks like a bit of a desperation move to me, in which the Royals decided to get a deal done just so they could cross it off their to-do list. What worries me is that the last time the Royals made a big transaction that appeared to be a bit premature, it was the David DeJesus trade. As they did last November, the Royals emphasized expediency over actually getting the best deal done.

If Francoeur continues to hit well the rest of the season, it won’t matter much. But by signing him in mid-August instead of after the season, the Royals are running the risk that he tanks over the last six weeks, in which case he’s signed to a contract that’s way overpriced before it even starts. If Francoeur hits like he did in May and June over the next two weeks, he’ll wind up with a line of .260/.310/.420, which is barely worth playing at all, let alone guaranteeing eight figures for. Even if you believe Francoeur’s performance is for real, given his history, wouldn’t you rather have six months of data to feel good about instead of four?

The Royals did this seven years ago, when Allard Baird was so impressed by Angel Berroa’s rookie season that he was committed to getting him signed to a long-term deal, and not even Berroa’s slump to begin 2004 could diminish Baird’s enthusiasm. The four-year deal was announced in mid-May, when Berroa was hitting around .200 with no secondary skills. He wound up batting .262/.308/.385, with noticeably worse defense than he showed as a rookie, and there were already second thoughts about his contract before it even went into effect. But the Royals had already committed to Berroa from 2005 through 2008; after a marginally bad 2005 season, Berroa was one of the worst players in baseball in 2006, and by 2007 the Royals had sent him and his bloated contract to Triple-A.

Francoeur’s contract only runs half as long. But as with Berroa’s rookie season, there is at least some reason to think Francoeur is having a fluky year, and I think the Royals should have waited as long as possible, and for as much data as possible, before committing to him past this year.

The second, and more significant, reason for my skepticism is that while Francoeur’s contract makes sense in the abstract, I don’t think he’s the best fit for the Royals going forward. This contract tells me that the Royals believe they can think about contending as soon as next season, a sentiment I share.

That requires a sea change in the way the organization builds its major league roster – winning trumps development, and tactical considerations trump strategic ones. That means that the Royals can’t just put a bunch of talented players on the field and hope. It means they need to do things like pinch-hit for their shortstop when the need arises, and not stick with a struggling starting pitcher when the game is on the line. It also means that they need to consider how the different parts of their lineup fit together.

Going into 2012, the Royals had three in-house candidates to fill two spots: center field and right field. (I will give them the benefit of the doubt that Alex Gordon’s place in left field is secure.) Those candidates were Francoeur, Melky Cabrera, and Lorenzo Cain.

Cain has the advantage of being the only one of the three who is a plus defender in center field. I’ve said this before, but it’s become enough of a problem that it needs to be repeated frequently: Melky Cabrera is a centerfielder in name only. The Royals rank 27th in the majors in Defensive Efficiency, and that’s despite the massive upgrade from Yuniesky Betancourt to Alcides Escobar at shortstop. With a young and inexperienced rotation likely for the next few years, more improvement is needed. Getting Cabrera out of center field is a top priority. That doesn’t mean trading him – he has been an adequate corner outfielder in the past, and probably will be again if the Royals move him to one.

Cabrera has the advantage of being the only one of the three who does not bat right-handed. I’ve written this before, but since no one else seems to be talking about it I’ll mention it again: the Royals are in danger of being a very right-handed-hitting team. Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Alex Gordon all bat left-handed. But Billy Butler, Johnny Giavotella, Alcides Escobar, and Salvador Perez all bat right-handed. Not only that, but every top hitting prospect in the organization bats right-handed. The best prospects in the entire system that don’t bat right-handed are:

Triple-A: David Lough and Jarrod Dyson. (Yes, and Clint Robinson and Kila Ka’aihue, but they have no future in Kansas City.)
Double-A: Derrick Robinson and Paulo Orlando.
High-A: Rey Navarro, the one legitimate prospect on this list.
Low-A: No one.

Everyone from Wil Myers and Christian Colon to Brett Eibner and Cheslor Cuthbert bats right-handed. As does, I should point, Bubba Starling.

Cain and Francoeur both bat right-handed, while Cabrera is a switch-hitter. If the Royals commit to Cain in center field and trade Cabrera, the Royals will have six right-handed bats in the lineup almost every day next year, with little hope that the ratio will balance out in the near future. (Incidentally, this is one of the main reasons why I think the Royals would be foolish to let go of switch-hitting Brayan Pena as their backup catcher.)

Francoeur is the only one of the three who could neither play good defense in center field nor bat from the left side. The obvious solution for the Royals was to promote Cain, move Cabrera to right field (or possibly to left field, with Gordon switching corners), and to wave Francoeur good-bye. That would have upgraded their outfield defense while maintaining the platoon advantage in at least four spots in the lineup.

By re-signing Francoeur, the Royals put themselves in a difficult decision. Maybe they are able to trade Cain for a starting pitcher, in which case they’re stuck with a bad defender in a crucial up-the-middle position. Maybe they can turn Cabrera into prospects, in which case they’re going to be eaten alive by tough right-handed pitching. But the Royals have created a situation where, no matter which way they go, they’ve left the 2012 team with a significant tactical weakness.

Maybe the Royals get really creative here, and trade both Cain and Cabrera in order to open a spot for Jarrod Dyson (which honestly isn’t as crazy as it sounds). Or maybe they trade Butler and DH Cabrera (which is as crazy as it sounds, as I don’t think the Royals can get fair value for Butler). But as it stands now, bringing back Francoeur is the first domino in a chain reaction that, whichever way it goes, doesn’t end well for the Royals.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope that, between now and Opening Day, the Royals come up with an outfield arrangement which maximizes their chances of winning in 2012. The problem is that they already had such an arrangement at their fingertips, and let it go rather than relinquish their precious Francoeur. Re-signing Frenchy certainly isn’t a crippling move along the lines of the Jose Guillen contract; it doesn’t clearly make the Royals worse like the Mike Jacobs trade did. But the Royals spent a fair amount of money on a player who doesn’t have a long track record of success, and who the Royals didn’t really need in the first place.

There were better ways to spend that money. Love may be blind, but it ain’t cheap. If Dayton Moore’s love is requited, this contract won’t hurt the Royals. Unfortunately, “not hurting the Royals” is about the best we can hope for.


KHAZAD said...

Perhaps the most interesting and sober perspective I have seen on the Francouer signing, especially the point about the future right handedness of the Royals.

To me, besides Dayton's man crush on Frenchy, the move indicates that they either want to sell high on Cabrera or don't have that much faith in Cain. I don't know which.

I was not a fan of the signing, and thought it was too much money, but reading some of the scathing remarks elsewhere led me to defend it somewhat. Whether it is overrated or not, they seem to like his fit and presence on the team, and even good teams do this sometimes.

You mentioned Defensive Efficiency, a stat which seems to be back in vogue. Fangraphs and Dewan have the Royals in the middle of the pack fielding wise. Defensive efficiency is more of a simple math problem, and I think teams with below average pitching are penalized for that, as they give up more line drives and hits that are well placed.

Anonymous said...

The part I don't get is that there was a $4MM mutual option for next year.

So Francoeur is getting paid 8.5 for 2013?

I know that is not how to look at it, but they could have at least tried to go with that option. That would have been the best solution as like you say there are not many bad 1 year contracts. And that was already in place.

kcghost said...

This is GMDM's specialty: creating roster logjams where none should exist. I think this trades tells is that 1) Wil Myers isn't going to be up before mid-2013 (if at all), and 2) Cain is not, in the eyes of the Royals, a viable CF candidate.

Kenneth said...


a Monday morning post, very sneaky, but you can't it past us that click on you every day :-) I guess with the busy schedule you have these days you have to post when you can.

Reading such a well written article does make it hard to get any work done this morning. Thank you very much for the post.

I have to agree with KC ghost. I think this means the Royals must not be confident in Lorenzo Cain. I totally agree that starting Jarrod Dyson for his defense and speed in CF is not crazy.

I would like to ask a question. This year, it seemed to me, the Royals needed offense from all three OF spots due to 2b, ss, C being below average offensively. 3b was not so hot this season either. As Escobar, Moose and Gio develop, will the Royals need three offensive OF's or do you think they will be able to sacrafice power in CF for defense?

The other question I have is this. Don't you think veteran leadership in a clubhouse is worth something? Especially when so many young kids are hitting the majors at the same time. Frenchy has been in their shoes, saddled with expectations. If we got rid of Greinke because he was bad for the clubhouse what is a guy who is good for the clubhouse worth?

JJSKCK said...

@Bryan -
The "mutual option" is not a part of this deal. It's a dumb concept anyway. As Rany has pointed out, the only way both sides would agree to exercise the mutual option is if the $ amount matches exactly to the what the player and ownership think he's worth.

@Kenneth - "Veteran leadership" matters very little when it comes to results. It's about performance, which is why 3 teams have been willing to walk away from Francoeur despite his sterling reputation as a good guy. As long as you're not a major a-hole (Juan Cruz?), it doesn't really matter.

In the end, the Royals dealt Greinke because he wanted out AND they were able to dump Betancourt. If they didn't find value for him, he'd still be pitching indifferently for KC.

Karte said...

I think the Royals are positioning themselves to trade Billy Butler for starting pitching.

Cabrera then takes over RF, Cain to CF, and Frenchy to DH.

Phil said...

The best(?) team in baseball has an outfield that includes Raul Ibanez and Ross Gload. They would be happy to start Jeff Francoeur, and yet they are favored to go to the World Series. Can we please move on to the low hanging fruit rather than dissect mostly inconsequential trades?

Baseball of all sports is most able to mitigate the impact of a bad individual player. So even if Frenchy regresses to his old self, is that paramount to the fact that the Royals have no rotation that even remotely resembles what Philadelphia, Boston, San Fran, etc have?

So, really, how is this signing worth 2,000 words? We have no starting pitching. End of argument, right? We could have 9 Jeff Francoeurs and it still wouldn't matter.

(great write-up just the same).

WSPA said...

The Royals don't place a higher priority on Frenchy; Alex just has more leverage.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Cain (or Dyson for that matter).

We're set. Accept for the little matter of starting pitching, of course.

Adrian said...

Some thoughts:

I do not agree the deal was inevitable. You’re seriously going to suggest Dayton Moore would have signed Frenchy for 2 more years if he were putting up an 84 OPS+ this season?

I wish I could parlay deep ambivalence into a 3,500 word blog post.

As for the questions that “have to be asked,” there’s really only one question that I want to ask: Is Jeff Francoeur going to be worth $16M over 3 years to the Kansas City Royals? My answer: Yes. Look for my blog post later.

Your analysis effectively discounts the value Dayton Moore is gaining this season from Frenchy’s underpriced 2011 deal. Even by the conservative $4.5M per fWAR, Frenchy’s almost a $10M player this season. The Royals have already extracted 2/3 of the value of the full 3-years of service. Is Frenchy worth $6M over the next 2 seasons? You bet! Even if he’s just a platoon player in 2012 and a bench player in 2013.

So, you would like the timing of the deal if it were perceived to be more club friendly? Otherwise, what, it hurts Alex Gordon’s feelings? Gordon’s agent should argue, rightly, that Alex Gordon is showing his true abilities and should be paid accordingly. I think he was injured at a time when his career trajectory was saying “future 137 OPS+ hitter.” That kind of hitter, along with Gordon’s defense, is worth a hell of a lot more than a $13.5M 2-year extension. It’s certainly in HIS best interest to wait until the end of the season for an extension, particularly if he can accumulate 100+ runs AND RBI.

Also, I understand the platoon advantage is real. But RH batters do have the ability to hit RH pitchers. Ultimately, it’s about scoring more than you allow. I think the hand-wringing over the future line-up construction is a lot of hot air. Yes, it’s something of an issue. But it’s not going to keep the Royals from being competitive.

Also, I think there should be a rule against dredging up the Allard Baird era for any kind of comparison as it relates to running a competent low revenue major league franchise.

Maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe you just wrote an angst-filled blog post for no reason whatsoever other than to fill your readers with angst. Maybe.

Lance said...

I love this signing. Love it, love it, love it. Contrary to JJ, I believe clubhouse chemistry is vitally important (the Oakland A's of the 70's not withstanding). Leadership within a team is paramount to success. The thing I like most is Francouer's physical conditioning. He has lost weight, is faster and seems to be in the best shape of his life. This coming off season in the weight room, I think he adds back ten to twelve pounds of muscle, keeps his newly found speed and becomes a legit power presence in the lineup. I will also predict that Zack Greinke will be back in KC in 2013, I know, I know, it sounds crazy but I think Zach and Dayton have a strong bond and the trade was made to strengthen the Royals with the mutual idea that Zach would return as the 'final piece' in '13.

Kansas City said...

I think on balance it is a good signing. Francour is only 27. It is reasonable to think he will be about this good over the next two years and he might even get better. If he gets worse, we have a cheap Cain to rplace him. Worst case, you platoon him and he becomes an overpiced, yet valuable resource.

As WSPA said, it does not mean there was a higher priority on signing Frency than Gordon. That was a rare mistake in analysis by Randy.

The logjam and too many right handed bats are legitimate issues, but generally it is beter to have too many good players than too few.

BobDD said...

The problem for me with this deal is that GMDM was bidding against himself. There was no need to sign this now at that price. And if during the off-season some other team somehow slipped in and stole Frenchy away at this price, it is not a loss - pretty much a wash either way. So an unnecessary deal for an unnecessary player.

Barring an upcoming trade, it plugs up all three OF spots, with greatly inferior CF defense, overly RH batting, and a player with the kind of baggage (low OBP) that has been GMDM's biggest roster weakness in the past. You may be right that it will not hurt too much in the end, but it twangs all the strings of GMDM's historical deficiencies. And that is NOT good news.

Thumbs down for me.

WSPA said...

I was kind of worried that we had too many left-handed hitters at one point. Three of our biggest pieces are Hosmer, Moose and Gordon. Plus we were playing Getz and Kila earlier. It will work itself out.

Brad said...

I personally don't have a problem with the Francouer signing. While there was a mutual option available, it's a no-brainer that Francouer was going to turn down his half. As pointed out, he is having a very good season this year. This season would be worth a whole lot more on the open market than the option was worth. So, the mutual option was a moot point.

As mentioned by another commenter, I think this signing is as much an indictment on one of Cain/Cabrera as it is the thinking that Myers is going to need at least one more year than originally thought to reach the majors. It's also possible that they may have approached Melky about a multi-year extension but he wouldn't do it at terms the Royals found acceptable or at all.

And as much as I hate to bring "intangibles" into the equation, Frenchy certainly seems to be enjoying playing for the Royals, he certainly doesn't seem to have the pressures on him like he did in Atlanta or New York and is able to just go out and play, and the team really seems to like having him around. That is one thing I have noticed this year that seems to be different from previous years, the team as a whole just seems to be having more fun as a group even though they are still one of the worst teams in the majors, record-wise, and I think Francouer has at least a little bit to do with that.

McGoldencrown said...

I agree with khazad, there is no way KC's defense is 27th in baseball. They have an avg defensive team at worst. Too many avg to above avg players. The tigers and brewers, those are bad defensive teams and it shows.

McGoldencrown said...

Great comments by (yo)Adrian. He is 100% right.

Nathan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nathan said...

Fans like to construct flawless lineups where nobody of value is "blocked" and everyone fulfills or surpasses expectations. What would work in this fairy-tale land is not the same thing that will work for a competitive MLB team. A good team needs four decent outfielders. Right now, that's what the Royals have. Among the Gordon/Francoeur/Cabrera/Cain/Dyson group, someone is sure to get hurt or fall on their face, at least for awhile, sometime in the next year or two. This isn't a "logjam," it's depth. And creative solutions could emerge; for example, one can imagine a Franceour/Dyson platoon developing eventually, where Dyson starts in CF vs. RHP and serves as a defensive sub vs. LHP. Much depends on management of the available players.

I would add that the platoon split cuts both ways. If being right-handed makes the Royals slightly worse against right-handed pitchers, that will be partially ameliorated by better production vs. lefties. That doesn't quite make up for the harm done by losing the platoon splut vs. RHP, because opposing managers can bring in righty-specialists in the middle-innings. But this just means the Royals need to carry a good left-handed pinch hitter (Ka'aihue or Robinson?), it doesn't represent a severe problem.

Ryan said...

“We’re going to keep all our options open,” Moore said. “I will say this: The center field position in (Kauffman Stadium) is a huge weapon, and Lorenzo Cain can play center field.”

This is why they trade Cabrera in the off-season. Cain will be our starting CF next year.

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Kansas City said...

Ryan is probably correct, if they think Cain can play. But stil, too many right handed bats.

Chris H said...

Trust me, Rany. You're not the only one talking about the right-handedness of the Royals. However, you are the most read/listened-to source that is talking about it. You need to keep hammering it home. I bring it up when appropriate over on Royals Review in comment threads. People acknowledge it, but we never had much to go on. Now, with this contract, we know we're going to have an issue.

Also, it goes without saying, but just in case some people are thinking, "Who cares if the lineup is right-handed heavy?", it needs to be noted that going up against decent right-handed pitching puts this team at a huge disadvantage. And that means Max Scherzer and Gavin Floyd have a good chance to shut us down each time out.

Michael said...

Billy Butler's line vs. RHP-.289/.354/.446

Alcides Escobar-.257/.287/.352 (much better vs. righties)

That's just two guys right there. Frenchy is the only right hander with a pronounced platoon split. I'm more worried that the middle of our future lineup leans heavily left handed (Moose, Hosmer, and Gordon) than anything else. I don't worry too much if the opponent starts a right hander because the part of our lineup that should do most of the damage can hit right handers pretty well. Left handers though, and we're pretty much counting on Billy and Jeffy and hoping other guys can get on base in front of them.

Much ado about nothing with the "leaning too heavily right handed" argument.

John said...

Dayton Moore has always been a scout first, and he's always been convinced that Francoeur can be a star in the major leagues. He thinks that someone messed up up somewhere along the line, and that the Royals can "fix" him. And maybe they can. Maybe that is what is happening this season.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia went from top Braves prospect four years ago, to the Rangers giving him away to Boston for peanuts last August, and now he looks like a real ballplayer again. And he's only 26.

Francoeur has always had talent, and he's been around so long, we forget he's only 27. Maybe he did just got some bad advice along the way, and the Royals got him back on track. It's rare, but it does happen.

Michael said...

And maybe, just maybe, leaving Moustakas in the majors did work. In his last 6 games, he has a line of .526 avg, 3 walks, 3 doubles, and has been hitting the ball with some power again. His next homer will be coming very soon. I have a feeling he's going to end the season on a high note.

MattT said...

Um, would someone please promote Edwin Carl to Kane County? Or maybe Wilmington? Anyone who's averaging almost 20 SO/9 IP is due for an upgrade to his daily meal allowance. That's the most dominating line over the course of 30+innings I've seen outside of high school ball.

Antonio. said...

I think righty-on-righty match-ups aren't as troublesome as lefty-on-lefty simply because righties see a lot more righties than lefties do lefties. It's an issue, but it's rather small.

Michael said...

Just saw that the Nationals are probably going to be looking for a centerfielder and leadoff hitter this offseason. Wonder if they'd consider either Melky or Cain? What would be a good return for either player?

Adrian said...

I think there are two intangibles that can be pointed to with stats that would indicate that Frenchy can continue his production.

One, I think Frenchy’s plate discipline can be attributed to the intangible “coachability.”

The way I read Frenchy’s plate discipline on fangraphs is that he’s swinging at fewer pitches—5% fewer than his career average, 8% fewer in the strike zone—with more authority. He is also making the best contact of his career on balls outside of the strike zone. This would seem to fit with Seitzer’s “be aggressive within a zone” approach. It is consistent with what Frenchy and Seitzer were saying at the beginning of the year.

I think Frenchy’s 19 steals can be attributed to “hard work.” Actually, I think it can be attributed to weight loss and increased athleticism. Frenchy went from 225 last season to 207 in February. He says he played his best through 2007 at 215, but bulked up to 242 before 2008. Obviously, weight loss did not work in Sean O’Sullivan’s case, but I think it was important for Frenchy.

I think we are seeing Frenchy at his best. I have no reason to think he cannot keep it up for 2 more seasons.

Antonio. said...

What can we attribute to his 8 caught stealings?

bkr87 said...

Is there any other options than trading for 1 of 3 cf's that field well, hit lefty, and don't downgrade our OBP any more than it is? Those being Dexter Fowler(Possible), Shane Victorino(Unlikely), Jacoby Elsbury(Highly unlikely)

bkr87 said...

not counting Granderson(impossible)

Michael said...

Our OBP ranks 5th in the AL, behind only the Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers, and Rangers. And what do they all have in common? They are all going to the playoffs (most likely).

Our offense is close to playoff caliber this year. Our pitching staff is better suited for AAA. Pitching is what we need to focus on improving.

bkr87 said...

Totally Agree on the pitching but an OF with better range always helps

Jason and Kirstin said...

There seems to be an over-emphasis on too many right-handed batters. An OF of Gordon, Cain, Frenchy would be the best defensive OF in all of MLB. I think that's worth the slight disadvantage of 6 righties in the lineup.

Keep in mind, also, that if Moose and Hosmer click into the next gear next year, I'm not going to be too worried about right-handed pitchers having their way with the Royals.

Michael said...

Plus Gordon and Butler, who hits righties pretty well too. Escobar actually hits righties a lot better than he hits lefties, too. It's just something for people to talk about, it's really no deal at all.

Kenneth said...

I re-read your article since there was not a new one posted (hint, hint). Would it be fair to summarize your point as you are upset with the deal because you would rather have Cabrerra as your RF rather then Frenchy ? C'mon .. that's a far cry from you being so mad at the Royals that you couldn't even write another article. I would also disagree. I would rather have Frenchy and his right handed bat.

May I suggest a permalink to the podcast homepage on the blog, much like you have one for your favorite posts.

The news in Syria is not good. When Iran is calling for you to listen to the people you might be on the wrong side of the fence. I hope your family is safe.

K.C.Tigerfan said...

Rany, you are like my last matter how many times I try, you won't give me what I need.

I wish I knew how to quit you.

Fast Eddie said...

Royals have major league leading 30 one-run losses. That may mean if luck changes that 2012 will be much better, but who has heard of the Royals having any good luck? It sure seems like everytime the Royals score and take a lead, they give it back in the next half inning.

bbxpert said...

Any likelihood the Royals make an effort to sign Yu Darvish?