Has Jeff Francoeur Run Out of Time in Atlanta?

Gabriel TaylorAnalyst IMay 28, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - APRIL 08:  Jeff Francoeur #7 of the Atlanta Braves runs the bases against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on April 8, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

There are rumors that the Atlanta Braves are shopping right fielder Jeff Francoeur.

Yahoo! Sports' Gordon Edes broke the story earlier this week that the Boston Red Sox have been scouting Francoeur.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution Braves beat writer Dave O'Brien reported that Braves general manager Frank Wren would not confirm or deny the rumors.

The Red Sox may be looking for a replacement for J.D. Drew, a former Atlanta Brave and Georgia native.

The loss of Frenchy, as his teammates and fans affectionately call Francoeur, would be severe.

Francoeur grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta and is one of the most popular Braves on the team. He played with and against Braves catcher Brian McCann on several Little League teams, and the two are close friends.

More than anything, Francoeur might be a victim of high expectations. He graced the cover of Sports Illustrated as a rookie and was an All-State football player with a football scholarship to Clemson. He plays alongside McCann, who has made three consecutive All-Star teams.

Last season, the Braves demoted Francoeur to the minor leagues before calling him up to finish the season.

The culprit: strikeouts.

Francoeur is known as an aggressive hitter, often swinging on the first pitch and accruing lots of strikeouts.

It's clear why the Braves are shopping Francoeur: his high strikeout-to-walk ratio, low on-base percentage of .275, and sub-.260 batting average. Plus, he's lost some of the power he had during his first two seasons in the major leagues.

His .275 on-base percentage does not seem to fit in with Theo Epstein's typical outfielder stats.

However, Francoeur consistently plays right field, appearing in 155-plus games the last three seasons. J.D. Drew has not played in more than 146 games in one season , missing 53 games in 2008, the second year of his 5-year/$70 million contract.

Now 33 years old, Drew has been considered by many to be an underachiever throughout his career and may be interested in returning home.

He was drafted second overall in 1997 and had his best season with Atlanta in 2004 finishing with 31 home runs.

Frenchy, 25, has been in the Braves organization his entire career, and losing him would hurt the hometown fans who fervently cheer for him every game.

Drew, the highest-paid Red Sox, will earn $14 million this year.

Francoeur's salary is a reasonable $3.4 million this year and a deal might make sense if more players are involved.

The Braves have been very patient with Francoeur as his average dipped and his slugging percentage decreased.

Has the front office run out of patience?