GM Dayton Moore made multiple moves during this week’s Winter Meetings, but is deferring his biggest decision until a bow is wrapped on Cliff Lee and put under the Christmas tree of one of his many suitors. Zack Greinke survived the hectic week, but his future as a Royal is still in jeopardy. It has been reported Moore won’t trade Greinke until Lee signs, hoping some desperation sets in consequently pushing the price up a tad higher.
Instead, Moore addressed what many baseball execs felt was the worst outfield heading into the Winter Meetings. With a collection of Mitch Maier, Gregor Blanco, Jarrod Dyson, and Alex Gordon, it is difficult to argue otherwise.
Moore reached into his Atlanta Braves’ roots and signed two former Braves, Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera. Neither is considered an impact signing, but for $2.5 million (Francoeur) and $1.25 million (Cabrera) were deemed cost effective stop gaps on a barren MLB roster.
Since the day Moore took over as GM for the Royals, it was speculated Francoeur would end up in a Royals uniform. Moore’s quasi ‘bromance’ with Francoeur took four years to facilitate, but he finally landed him in a one year deal which comes along with a mutual option for 2012.
“In a win or a loss, he’s going to give effort, energy, focus, intensity and competitiveness every day,” Moore said in an interview with Dick Kaegel of MLB.com.
Francoeur, an Atlanta native, was drafted by the Braves in the first round of the 2002 MLB Draft. At the time Moore was Atlanta’s director of player personnel.
“Dayton was in my house when I signed my first contract when I was 18, so I’ve always respected him and the way he’s building with young guys,” Francoeur said.
By 2005, Francoeur had made the big league squad finishing third in the Rookie of the Year voting. In 2006, Francoeur, 22, played in every game for the Braves and crushed, .260, 24 2B, 29 HR, and 103 RBI.
2007 marked continue success for the rising star. ‘Frenchy’ hit .293, 40 2B, 19 HR, and 105 RBI, to go along with a Gold Glove in right field. Francoeur spurred by his home run drop, decided to beef up and try to turn those doubles into dingers.
“I bulked up to 242 going into spring, and it just never was the same,” he said.
In 2008 his offensive numbers plummeted, hitting only .239 with 11 homers. Since 2007, Francoeur has posted a -2.1 WAR in the three seasons. Despite being regarded as a competent defender, with a cannon for an arm, Francoeur has managed a career OBP of only .310. It seems this is a trending theme with recent roster transactions.
Even though the Royals finished second in MLB in batting average, they were in the middle of the pack when it came to getting on base.
Matt Klaassen of FanGraphs put the meager output into perspective using wOBA and WAR.
‘The four worst hitters (by wOBA) among qualified from 2008-10’
127. Pedro Feliz – .284 wOBA
126. Jason Kendall – .288 wOBA
125. Yuniesky Betancourt – .291 wOBA
124. Jeff Francoeur – .298 wOBA
‘The three least valuable (qualified) position players from FanGraphs WAR 2008-10’
127. Jose Guillen/ -1.1 WAR
126. Yuniesky Betancourt/ -0.8 WAR
125. Jeff Francoeur/ 0.0 WAR
Despite his lack of recent productivity, Francoeur still brings solid defense, along with veteran and postseason experience. Most recently he was traded to help with the Rangers’ World Series push. Francoeur also adds a right handed bat, which has performed much better against lefties, posting numbers nearly 50 points or higher in every category. Since the departure of Guillen, the Royals lineup has lacked any right handed thump.
Career vs. RHP – .256/.296/.403/.699
Career vs. LHP – .299/.343/.481/.824
Manager Ned Yost has already said Francoeur will be the Royals right fielder and bat in the middle of the lineup.
“I do want to play every day,” Francoeur said. “If you get to know me, I’m not the greatest guy to sit on the bench. I’ve always got ants in pants wanting to play.”
Cabrera, 25, brings postseason experience of his own to the Royals. In his six major league seasons, Cabrera has been on a squad which reached the playoffs every season. Cabrera posted four solid years of production in New York, before his star faded and he was dealt in the Javier Vazquez deal.
Last season, the switch hitter, managed .255, 27 2B, 4 HR, and 42 RBI in his 147 games with the Braves. Cabrera has played all three outfield positions in his career. He will compete for time in centerfield along with Blanco, Dyson, and Maier. Cabrera could also be used as a platoon in left field with Gordon.
Moore rounded out the week of action by selecting 22 year old RHP Nathan Adcock in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday. Adcock went 11-7 with a 3.38 ERA, 113 SO, in 141.1 innings pitched for the Pirates advanced A minor league squad in 2010. To retain Adcock’s rights, he must stick with the big league club throughout 2011.
This move backs Moore’s previous statements about letting some of the youngsters earn a spot in a rotation with more question marks than names penciled in. Moore has been adamant about giving the likes of Mike Montgomery and Everett Teaford a legitimate shot of making the 2011 roster. Moore has chosen to see if any of the home grown talent is ready, instead of seeking affordable free agent options such as Jeff Francis or Kevin Millwood.