Jeff Francoeur: A marginal addition.

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There’s a tendency
to microanalyze every baseball trade, especially the good old-fashioned
player-for-player swaps that you never see in football and that are rarely the
point of NBA deals.  It’s what we do. 


Joaquin Arias for Jeff Francoeur isn’t that big a deal.  It will get a bunch of attention because of
who one of the players once was and what he was supposed to become, but while
it adds something to the club without taking anything away (especially if
Brandon Boggs slides through waivers and is outrighted), there’s probably less
chance of Francoeur having a major impact as a Ranger than there is of him
leaving as lasting impression in his time here as Kip Wells, or James Baldwin.


Following Francoeur’s age 20 season for Class A Myrtle
named him the game’s number 14 prospect.  Matt Treanor and Andres Blanco had a combined
total of one season in which they were among the top 14 prospects
for their own


That’s a large reason why the Texas trades for Treanor and
Blanco, two more or less unremarkable National League journeymen who were
picked up from Milwaukee (for infielder Ray Olmedo) and from the Cubs (for a
player still to be named) in late March, right up against a different
roster-finalizing deadline, got only relatively passing mention.  They had little in their past to hang much of
a story on, little was given up to get them, and little (at first) was expected
of them.


All of that is true about Francoeur, other than the past
promise.  He was third in the Rookie of
the Year vote at age 21 – despite not arriving in the big leagues until
July.  He drove in 100 runs in each of
his first two full seasons with the Braves, winning a Gold Glove in the second
of those years.  If you’d asked 100
baseball people then what Francoeur would be at age 26, even the most pessimistic
would have never pegged him for a sub-.300 base-reacher and sub-.700 OPS’er who’d
slide almost all the way through league-wide waivers en route to being traded
to his third team, for an out-of-options infielder that had been designated for
assignment and cleared waivers himself, to fill a bit role on a playoff
contender that may not even lead to a playoff roster spot. 


Treanor and Blanco weren’t career disappointments, and thus
weren’t really news, when they were picked up late in March.  Francoeur has the
Baseball America
past, and the $5 million contract (which will be covered by the Mets while
Texas pays for Arias, essentially), and that’s what makes this trade different
from, say, the addition two weeks ago of Alex Cora, who had been let go by the
Mets himself.


Yet in a couple months, Francoeur will be a 26-year-old, in
good health, non-tendered before getting through his arbitration years.


For now, as rosters expand with the arrival of September,
Francoeur – who was reportedly picked up after efforts to get Boston’s Mike
Lowell or Colorado’s Ryan Spilborghs or the Dodgers’ Reed Johnson were denied,
not to mention the trumped waiver claim on Manny Ramirez – will give the club
some flexibility in a few ways. 


He can make a run at giving Texas the right-handed bat off
the bench that’s been missing.  (He’s
hitting .278/.355/.412 against lefthanders this season, after a .344/.356/.521
slash in 2009.  And for what it’s worth,
though he’s 2 for 12 in his career against C.C. Sabathia, he’s 5 for 8 with a
double and home run off of Andy Pettitte.) 


He’s still playable on an outfield corner (great arm, not
much else). 


Both of those things make it easier to sit (or pinch-hit
for) Julio Borbon against tough lefthanders. 


Down the stretch he’s a guy who can help the Rangers give
Josh Hamilton and his knee some extra down time and avoid having to play David
Murphy every single day. 


Basically, he’s a fallback for an outfield in which every
regular has issues (overall production or splittiness or health).  And his presence on the bench gives the club
more options to match up in key late-inning at-bats, especially with an expanded
roster that’s going to be heavy on extra defenders with not a lot of extra


Plus, not that Jorge Cantu doesn’t have his own future to
play for, but Francoeur has something to prove, especially given his awful
.190/.269/.305 second half and recent ill-advised playing time demands.  He’ll be a free agent this winter, probably needing
a positive finish just to land a big league deal. 


Francoeur has gone, in short order, from a Rookie of the
Year phenom and established pre-arbitration middle-of-the-order threat to an underachieving
player traded for Ryan Church to a role player traded, with cash that wasn’t essential,
for Joaquin Arias.   


He’s not a great player. 
The Rangers aren’t expecting him to be. 
They’re expecting him to be a minor upgrade in limited situations over
some players, an option to lighten the September load on others.  The whole time he’ll try to make a case to be
included in October, when rosters shrink back down to 25.


In other words, he’s less important on this club than
Treanor or Blanco.  Even if the trade to
get him, because of the time of year and the upside he was once thought to
have, generates more ink.





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(c) Jamey Newberg



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