Jeff as a Met…
Jeff Francoeur came to the Mets amid a divide in the fan-base, as Ryan Church was sent packing to Atlanta. â€œFrenchieâ€ as heâ€™s so cleverly nicknamed, had been slumping for quite some time while on the Braves roster. Whether he broke out of slump because he was â€œdueâ€ or because of the change of scenery, Jeff has really turned things around while on the Mets. Despite a serious slump in early September, Francoeurâ€™s boasted a batting average of .310 in 60 games, while sporting a slightly less impressive .337 on-base percentage. Perhaps most impressive is his slugging percentage, .485, much higher than his career average SLG of .429. Many have claimed that Frenchieâ€™s regressed, but his 162-game projected home runs and runs batted in as a Met are both exactly the same as his lifetime 162 game average stats â€“ 20 homers and 92 ribbies.
On the defensive side, Francoeur hasnâ€™t left much of a question mark. With one of the best arms in the game, Jeff has a tally of 11 assists this season, while only making 1 error in the field. If you think the stats lie, his Gold Glove from 2007 doesnâ€™t.
Francoeur has a couple more things going his way as well. Heâ€™s only 25 years old, turning 26 in January, and is set to make between $4-5 million next season if the Mets decide to keep him.
I canâ€™t look at the positives without mentioning his faults though. Jeff does not have the best eye at the plate, as evidenced by his lifetime OBP of .311 (ouch!) as well as his average of 120 strike outs per season. Another detriment to keeping Frenchie is his prolonged slump from 2008 through the end of his tenure in Atlanta earlier this season. In that time, he held a batting average under .250 and an on-base percentage under .300. If the Mets pay Francoeur $5 million next season, and he regresses to similar statistics, he would probably lose the starterâ€™s job and Omar might take some of the blame.
But is this enough reason to let Jeff go and search for a more consistent option in right field? Before I even delve into this topic, I think itâ€™s crucial to look at the financial situation the Mets are in. Omar Minaya and the Wilpons need to find a way to fill their starting rotation and bullpen, as well as attempt to make upgrades at catcher and either left field or first base…and theyâ€™re likely going to try and do this without raising the payroll. That being said, it doesnâ€™t make sense to spend more than $5 million on a new right fielder if Jeff isnâ€™t the answer. That extra money would be much better spent on the starting rotation, if nowhere else.
Who else is available?
Mark Teahen is a trade candidate from the Royals, set to make around the same salary as Francoeur in 2010. Teahen is more consistent at the plate than Francoeur from year to year, but they share very similar life-time stats, with only 10 points separating their OPS. Jeff is clearly the better fielder (in RF) on all accounts; Teahen is adequate at fielding, but has only played right field in 22 games this season.
Milton Bradley is another option, through trade, but will make $9 million in 2010 (and $12 in 2011!). Vladimir Guerrero is a free agent option, but will also likely sign for much more than $5 million this off-season after earning $15 million this season. Alex Rios could potentially be brought over in a trade with the White Sox, but is due almost $60 million over the next 5 seasons and may not be a significant offensive upgrade over Francoeur.
The only potential right fielder that makes a shred of sense to look at, in my opinion, is Bobby Abreu. Abreu is making $5 million this season, and will probably get a similar contract next season (though perhaps for more than 1 year). His line in 2009 is .302/.401/.439. That means he gets on base much more often than Francoeur, which is helpful in a line-up that generally requires long strings of base-runners to score runs. Abreuâ€™s slugging is significantly down this season, and his age is an issue. In his mid-30â€™s, Bobby is likely on the down-slope of his career. Though a Gold Glove winner in 2005, Abreuâ€™s defense has come back to earth with increased age; shown by his 8 errors made so far in 2009.
I believe that Jeff Francoeur has earned his spot in 2010 for the Mets. Heâ€™s played hard, with a lot of energy, but also with a lot of class. Francoeur is young and healthy and has a ton of upside. Itâ€™s worth taking a look at Bobby Abreu, but Omar should focus his efforts elsewhere once winter rolls around. I was initially against the Church-Francoeur trade, but to my delight I was proven wrong. I’m on the Frenchie-train, and until he has another <.700 OPS season, it’s the right train to be on. All aboard!