You could see this move coming a mile away. Over a year ago, people were wondering if Dayton Moore, the Kansas City Royals General Manager, might spring a deal for him, and certainly the Royals seemed the prime candidates of any team to want him. But it's still somewhat of a surprise to me to finally see the ink drying on a contract that calls for Jeff Francoeur to come to Kansas City.
The reason for my surprise is without merit, I realize. Moore's already proven a penchant for acquiring marginal, replacement level talent and spinning the PR on it. The Mike Jacobs acquisition last year was trashed by everyone from Buster Olney to my grandmother, but he went for it anyway. The same can be said of the Francoeur trade, an outfielder who enjoyed an incredible run as a rookie and followed it up with some pyrotechnics called home runs to lure your eyes away from everything else he can't do. Since then, Francoeur has floated along on the lazy river, watching GM after GM believe that he could turn things around with [insert team name here].
It's not that the flashes aren't there. Given just a few at-bats, he'll parlay it into another paycheck. Last year, the Mets grabbed him from Atlanta and enjoyed a .311 batting average and an .836 OPS -- a very respectable total for half a season's work. Then again, that came after hitting .250 for the Braves in the season's first half with a .634 OPS. Same league. Same division. Completely different player.
That same Francoeur reared his head in 2010 with the American League winning Texas Rangers, where in 15 games, he hit .340/.357/.491. Again, however, the smaller sample diverts your eyes away from the atrocious rest of the season he had in New York where after the aforementioned half-season of resurgence with the Mets, he tanked enough to hit .237/.293/.369. Overall, two of the last three seasons have seen Francoeur's OPS at less than .700 and he's failed to stick in Atlanta, New York or Texas. This time, Dayton Moore has a chance to reunite with his former Brave and hopes he gets lucky.
Francoeur signed for $2.5 million plus incentives that could take things up to $3 million. The Padres spent that much and got Aaron Harang, the type of starting pitcher the Royals could use as a strong veteran presence and solid bounce back candidate. Perhaps the team felt the need to sign a slugger after losing the bat of David DeJesus and facing their first full season without Jose Guillen. Home runs sell tickets, so even if Francoeur refuses to take a base, he might slap enough out of the park to look impressive.
If this is the Royals best gets this off-season, then the free agent period has been a failure. The Royals shouldn't be expected to bid on the Cliff Lee's and Jayson Werth's that are available. But they can round out their roster with high reward signings of guys coming off injury or waiting for better deals near spring training.
Instead, Moore took the lazy route to go with what he knew, and the results will more likely than not be the same offensive black hole in the line-up.