MLB 2011: Why is Jeff Francouer Still Employed?

Matt RichardsContributor IJanuary 11, 2011

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 31:  Jeff Francoeur #21 of the Texas Rangers looks on dejected from the dugout against the San Francisco Giants in Game Four of the 2010 MLB World Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 31, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Now I know this is ridiculous.  It is, but Jeff Francoeur has been on a consistent downward slope since he started his MLB career with a bang.

Maybe he would not even have a job if the Royals did not decide to throw money his way. 

As I followed Francoeur’s career when he first hit the bigs, I soon began to associate his name with success.  He played well defensively, and he was a middle of the order hitter. 

In his first half season, playing at 21-years-old, he had a slash line of .300/.336/.549.  He followed up that campaign with two moderately successful seasons in 2006 and 2007, belting a combined 48 home runs and driving in 208 runs.  The difference though was his considerable drop in OPS thanks to his dramatic drop in OBP. 

Francoeur still showed signs of power entering the 2008 season, and there was reason to hope for growth.

Hope was soon lost, however, as Francoeur struggled to hit 11 home runs and managed only a .653 OPS. His defensive WAR also dropped to -1.1, proving his disappointment in both aspects of his game.

The next year, the Braves finally had enough and traded the once future star to the division rival New York Mets. 

With the Mets, Francoeur began resemble his 2005 self, but ultimately his numbers declined to .237 average with an OBP below .300 in 2010. After being traded to the Rangers, Francoeur hit .340/.357/.491 in 56 at-bats. 

It's obvious Francoeur has his fair share of talent.  He is an above average defender with a cannon arm.  I would rather have Francoeur running around in right field than, say, Jose Guillen, but that’s really not saying much (and hey, the Royals had Guillen last year too!). Francoeur simply appears to be a liability at the plate.  The only value he brings is his defense, but even there he has been inconsistent.  Through his career in the big leagues, Francoeur’s defensive WAR has bounced around between -1.2 and 1.7. 

In spite of all of the above information though, Francoeur received a 1-year, $2.5 million deal with the Royals, who are said to be undergoing a youth movement.

It is possible Francoeur could be used in a platoon role in which he plays mainly against lefties.  In his last three seasons Francoeur has hit .281/.326/.418 against left-handed pitchers, but that OBP is a point above the overall league average. 

Francoeur is simply occupying a spot that could be given to a younger player fighting for a chance to prove himself for the future.  The Royals are not built for 2011, they’re built for 2013, possibly 2012.  With that said, the only reason to sign Francoeur would be to fill a void. 

I don’t know if general manager Dayton Moore wants to be competitive this season and try to please the fans or if he really cares what’s best for the organization.  Even if the money can be overcome, rather easily, Francoeur is going to become the next project for the Royals.

Over the last few years, coaches have tried to fix Francoeur’s swing and his plate discipline, but five years into his big league career, it is tough to imagine him suddenly finding his way and becoming a true baseball star. 

In the name Francoeur, I still think of the talent he has demonstrated, but now his name is becoming synonymous with hope.  Nowadays teams are searching for cheap solutions with potential upside.  The Giants found it with Aubrey Huff, the Rays with Carlos Pena and even the A’s with Jack Cust.

The Royals though are wasting a spot in the lineup and in the field with Jeff Francoeur.