Jeff Francoeur, Extended

At least one person in Kansas City will be flashing his trademarked smile today. Jeff Francoeur had his contract extended two years. Fans in New York and Atlanta are probably stifling laughs of their own, coming from an entirely different place, but was the signing so bad? Even without terms, we can try to evaluate the signability of the 27-year-old corner outfielder.

Frenchy is having his best season at an age where most baseball players are peaking. On the other hand, very few of his core stats represent a career-best. He’s shown a better ISO before (.189 in 2006), struck out less the last three years in a row, and probably won’t hit career highs in home runs, runs or RBI. He’s only showing a personal best in stolen bases and walk rate, and that walk rate (6.6%) is only percentage points above his best (6.0%, achieved thrice).

He has shown one of his better power years this year, yes. He reversed a decline in home runs per fly ball, but even his current number (9.4%) is right in line with his career (9.9%). His ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio is on the right side of his career ratio, but in line with what he’s done in the past three years. There’s no power stat that screams luck.

His defense has been a plus this year, but he’s also been a plus over the span of his career. His UZR/150 (1.9) makes sense (6.9 career), even if it continues to be based on the strength of his arm (+53.5 runs) rather than his range (-13.5 runs). He can continue providing value with his glove in the corner outfield.

Now we get to his legs. Francoeur has as an above-average speed score for the first time in his career, and should collect 20 stolen bases when he’s never cracked double digits in that statistic before. Part of this is team philosophy. The Royals lead the American League in stolen bases and so they’ve sent him more than any other team. Part of this is improvement. He’s been successful on 73% of his attempts this year, 63% career. Maybe he concentrated on his quickness in the offseason, or maybe this is a one-year blip.

But the fact remains: Other than some of his speed-based statistics, there’s not really one outlier statistic when seen in the context of his career.

And yet, he’s showing his best wOBA (.344, career .318) and wRC+ (115, career 92) numbers of his career by far. Some of this is about the rest of the league getting worse. In the last three years, the league OPS has gone from .750 to .716, and the league’s wOBA has declined from .329 to .316. That drop has made his career wOBA go from below-average to above-average. In some ways, Frenchy has watched the league to get worse while he stayed the same.

A two year extension to a corner outfield in his peak ages is not going to cripple the Royals, and neither will it suppress any prospects that are ready to go. Wil Myers needs more seasoning and Lorenzo Cain is a center fielder or he should remain in the minor leagues. Even if Francoeur steals fewer bags and takes a step back in the power department, he’ll most likely put up close to an average wOBA next year. On the Royals (team wOBA .319), that’ll be useful.

[Edit: KC Star’s Bob Dutton reports that it’s two years, $13.5 million. That seems like he’s getting paid for his average production, not as if he’ll continue at his peak. Not terrible. Not great, but not terrible.]

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35 Responses to “Jeff Francoeur, Extended”

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  1. AustinRHL says:

    That contract sounds like okay value for the Royals, although it doesn’t look like a bargain.

    (Also, someone has to say it: you misspelled his name twice, including in the title.)

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  2. 13.5 over two I’m hearing from Dutton.

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  3. Daniel says:

    Not a bad deal for the Royals. Frenchy is only 27 and even if what we’re seeing is his peak he should be able to maintain it for the next year or two, assuming if he stays healthy.

    Yes, it’s chic to bash they guy and I’m sure there will be plenty of people whose initial reaction will be to laugh before they actually look at the numbers, but the Royals could have done much, much worse.

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    • Drew says:

      His numbers are average this year and far, far below average any other year. What’s to see?

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      • Doyle says:

        Average compared to what? To himself? To the MLB average from 2007? They’re still above average compared to MLB this year.

        “In some ways, Frenchy has watched the league to get worse while he stayed the same.” That pretty much sums it up.

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  4. Dwezilwoffa says:

    All KC fans are aware of Dayton Moore’s ex brave Fetish. Keep waiting for Chipper Jones to retire and become the new answer at 3rd base for the Royals.

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  5. MikeD says:

    Hopefully the Royals plan here is to get value out of an unexpected year and trade Frenchy before the start of next season to a team in need of a RFer.

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  6. CircleChange11 says:

    Frenchy’s character was one of the main things mentioned when he was brought over initially. I’m not going to use his character as a sole justification of the contract extension, but I do think there’s some value for having a veteran presence on that young team.

    The reason why some may have such a “Braves Fetish” is that Atlanta is a top notch organization, and guys that come up through that organization get to see how the org and players do it “the right way”. That’s not common. IMHO, what the Braves do is highly under-valued because it’s neither [1] sabermetrically-dominated nor [2] new. The Braves have been generally awesome since the 90s. Ho-hum, the Braves make the playoffs with another group of young players. Seen that movie before (hint, they don’t win the world seires), and the sequel, and the sequel’s sequel, and part 4, etc.

    That’s he’s not making a ton or that he’s not taking time away from a MLB ready prospect maybe even more defensible. Somebody has to play RF, and the way KC is going and the way the ALC is, they could be contenders next year (could be).

    People really seem to not like Frenchy, and for a variety of reasons. I have no emotional attachment to the guy, nor do I really care if he succeeds or fails.

    Looking at what he HAS to do in order to be valuable (2 WAR) is surprising:
    [1] league average fielder (he’s got that covered).
    [2] slightly below average bat or better (50/50)
    [3] stay healthy (better than average chances).

    That’s it. If he does those 3 things, he’ll be valuable. I know it sounds much easier than it is, but that’s because he’s a lock for the average or above fielding. He’s had 3+WAR seasons before buoyed by a +20 FRun season, and a +14 FRun & .249 ISO HALF season (now THAT’s how to enter the major leagues).

    His seasons alternate between a .300+ BABIP and a .270 BABIP, and in 2012 he’s due for a .270 BABIP That will lower his bat value.

    Jeff Francouer BABIP

    2005 – .337
    2006 – .284
    2007 – .337
    2008 – .274
    2009 – .305
    2010 – .270
    2011 – .311

    Frenchy is in a new class of players called “Knee-Jerk Regressers”. I mean when they regress, they go overboard with it. *grin*

    His .186 ISO is likely to regress (to aorund .150ish), which will also lower his bat value.

    His career is actually kinda interesting. He alternates good/bad years rather well, revolving around BABIP. He’s either ~1WAR or ~3WAR. If it holds, 2011 will see 1 WAR, 2013 with 3 WAR.

    No wonder he drives people crazy.

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    • Deadpool says:

      I think what we’re seeing with Francoeur in his BABIP is actually a cycle of behavior. He seems to focus on hitting good pitches at times, making better contact without upping his walk rate. Then he gets overconfident and expands his strike zone, making worse contact. These cycles would show the BABIP fluctuations you mention if you consider that they actually break down near the mid-season points every year.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Just heard on Baseball Today that he has had (in 2011) [1] 2 months with an OPS over .900 and [2] 2 months with an OPS under .700

        What you’re describing is a probably scenario. He gets going good, and gets overconfident, overagressive, sloppy, etc and it crushes him, then he “gets back to basics” and the cycle repeats.

        It could also be due to schedule, and it could be due to pitcher adjustments, etc.

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      • Welp says:

        He was always fluctuated wildly like that. This season his highs have been higher (slightly more power) and his lows less amazingly low.

        Is that reason to think he’s figured something out? Inconclusive. This extension is justifiable, but I don’t understand the baseball motivation for it (as opposed to the Dayton Moore motivation).

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      • NEPP says:

        Most players not named Pujols have pretty streaky numbers if you break it down.

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    • Welp says:

      “he’s a lock for the average or above fielding.”

      It’s interesting how much TZL hates him compared to the other metrics.

      Playing like an average major league regular, easy as it sounds, is exactly what Francouer has struggled to do his entire career. This extension and the justifications for it reek of recency bias.

      The extension is nowhere near a disaster; it’s fine. Just very unnecessary. Best case scenario he continues to mash lefties and play plus defense so a contender gives KC a useful piece in a trade next year.

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    • shthar says:

      The problem with regurgtations of figures like this, is it’s a failed attempt to describe two players, F vs LHP and F vs RHP.

      Vs LHP, he’s a pretty good hitter.

      Vs RHP, well, he’s got a good arm.

      Trying to understand a player without taking into effect the l-r breakdown reduces your understanding back to the level of a seventies ‘game of the week’.

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  7. Off the top of my head, I wonder how similar his career path is/will be to Delmon Young…

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  8. baty says:

    The Royals needed to buy more developmental time for eventual replacements, and Francoeur’s defense and durability alone might be worth the contract. I think it could be very tradable if/when the Royals need to clear space for 2013.

    I’m curious if Alex Gordon might be a long term solution in right field when the next set of prospects move in.

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  9. well says:

    He got better because he was traded to the weak AL

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  10. Evan says:

    When does a guy’s power actually peak? If Francoeur’s ISO is higher because he’s actually getting a little bit stronger as he approaches his peak?

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Frenchy may have peaked at 21. *grin*

      AGE – ISO (Jeff Francouer)

      27 – 186
      26 – 134
      25 – 143
      24 – 120
      23 – 151
      22 – 189
      21 – 249

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      • Jason B says:

        From an ISO standpoint, Frenchy *almost definitely did* peak at 21. /fixed/ =)

        Very unlikely to surpass that 249 high-water mark, methinks.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Since the 21yo season was a half season, I was giving Frenchy the benefit of the doubt that he may have an ISO of .249 or so for a half season (most notably the first half).

        But yeah, his age 21 and 22 seaons were, by far, his best power seasons.

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      • NEPP says:

        SI told me he was “The Natural”…why would they lie?!?

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    • shthar says:

      Versus left handers.

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      • Eno Sarris says:

        We know those things about Frenchy but

        1) why split your sample in half when looking at his ‘improvement’ this year

        2) the Royals are playing/paying him like a regular so we might as well talk about him as a regular

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  11. Bodhizefa says:

    Could Francoeur feasibly live up to this contract? Sure, I guess. But who else would have given him this much money to play on their team? The Royals bid against themselves here. I can’t imagine another big league team (outside of perhaps LA/Colletti) even offering Frenchie a starting job, much less $13.5 mil guaranteed over two years. It’s just far too much money for a guy who, despite having a decent enough year, isn’t in demand at all and could have been signed for much much cheaper.

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  12. walt526 says:

    As this will keep Brian Sabean from making him another FA mistake for at least another two years.

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  13. Flharfh says:

    “Lorenzo Cain is a center fielder or he should remain in the minor leagues.”

    You don’t think Lorenzo Cain could provide similar production as Francoeur for a fraction of the cost, even in RF?

    Better for the Royals to keep Melky, put him in RF, and play Cain in center. Cain is being wasted in AAA. I don’t discount the possibility that Melky may be with another team come next year, but if the Royals start 2012 with Gordon/Melky/Frenchy and Cain in AAA I think that is a mistake.

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  14. Jack Schirmer says:

    Those of you claiming this is a decent to good signing understand that Francouer was easily in the running for worst player in the majors, 2008-2010 division, right?

    His OPS+, starting in 2008, was


    That’s for a RFer. Since May 4th his OPS+ has been slightly below league average. April counts, but that’s what the Royals are paying for, with their 13 million dollars. One month’s production out of the last four years.

    When did Fangraphs become AmazinAvenue?

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      May 4th is an arbitrary endpoint! Over the last month he’s been good again.

      Listen, I don’t know how he did it. I don’t like him personally. I even sang a song about how much he upset me. I am skeptical that he’s changed.

      But when I looked at his component numbers, they’re all in his career range. He’s swinging less and running more, and nothing else is a career high.

      That’s strange to me. And worth writing about.

      Yes, he was really bad before. But, somehow, without being really different or having crazy luck, he’s ok. And OK might be worth 6.5 a year.

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  15. Doyle says:

    Sure, he’s not directly block Lorenzo Cain from coming up, but I’d say this signing absolutely blocks Cain from playing next year (and maybe in 2013) even though he’s more than ready to come up now. They have control of Melky through next year and they should sign Alex Gordon to an extension after this season (priority #1 in my book) so next year’s outfield will look exactly like todays.

    They could have let Frenchy walk, moved Gordon to right (not sure how good of a move that would be, actually, but it’d probably be better than sticking Melky there), moved Melky to left and brought up Cain to play center. Now Cain will remain in AAA for another year with nothing left to prove or he’ll be promoted to ride the bench in 2012. I’m not a fan of either of those options.

    If, on the other hand, this signing was the Royals way of saying that they’re keeping Frenchy over Melky, then they made the wrong call. I’m glad Dayton got over his “I’ll take anyone who has played in Seattle” phase, I just wish he’d stop taking everyone that Atlanta gets rid of.

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    • Jack Schirmer says:

      Yup–not only could they have let Frenchy walk, they could have gotten something for him. Now they get the worst of all possible worlds. No distant lottery ticket, and they’re paying him actual money.

      Isn’t this the signing that’s always excoriated, for good reason? You pick up a guy whose promise was years ago, and who has been horrible for three years. You get phenomenally lucky, but instead of dealing him for someone who juuuust might be good on the next good Royals team, you not only keep him, but sign him to the largest contract he could conceivably get.

      This is GMing at its worst. Sad to say, it’s not surprising.

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