Jeff Francoeur: Royals Recruiter

Note: I wrote this before learning of Frank White’s firing by the Royals. I have to prepare for some other stuff and don’t have time to write another article. Frank White’s firing is on the business and PR side of the house and will not have an impact on baseball operations. However, what I wrote below is about organizational culture change. Changing the culture into a winner. However, if an organization is willing to blow out one of three people in the organization to have their number retired, I have to assume that the culture of Buffoonery is still winning the day in the front office. Might as well put a trash can back in front of the 1985 World Series Trophy.

On Tuesday of this week it was announced that Jonathan Broxton signed a one-year, $4 Million contract with the Royals. Broxton is coming off an arm injury. However, Dayton Moore has made a name for himself in signing reclamation projects and then turning them for something of value. Sort of like those house flipping shows that were popular in the latter half of the Aught Decade, except with baseball players, not houses.

Broxton will add depth to the bullpen, allows Aaron Crow to take another shot at the rotation, and open up some trade options. At least that’s the theory. This thing could blow up. To you and me a $4 Million gamble is a big deal, but for an MLB payroll I think it’s defiantly worth the risk.

photo by Minda Haas

I could go into all the ways the Royals could/should/will use Broxton and the other options that this will create. That stuff is too far away to really think about. What I find most interesting about this Broxton situation is how the signing came about. Recruiting is something that isn’t typically talked about in the professional sporting world because everyone assumes the paycheck is the biggest decision to make. However, In professional sports teams often offer similar contracts. What the decision comes down to is quality of life. Will I be happy living in this city or that city? If a guy is smart he’ll discuss these things with his family. Cliff Lee signing with Philadelphia is a good example of this. It was publicized that Lee’s family liked their time in Philadelphia, so they signed there. I dare say it, whether a team gets or doesn’t sign a player often comes down to intangibles of the team or city.

The term intangibles often makes fans cringe when learning a player on their team has intangibles. Let’s be honest: intangibles is the sunshine a team’s PR Department throws out when they know they just signed or traded for a player that sucks. Jeff Francoeur has been mentioned in the same sentence as intangibles a few times in his career. Francoeur had an excellent season last year. His plate production might, and probably will regress next year. However, I enjoy watching Francoeur play defense more than anything. After reading this Kevin Kernan article in New York Post about the Broxton signing I realized Jeff Francouer brings another intangible to the Royals that the Royals have needed for years. A Recruiter! (This hunting trip has been mocked by bloggers and media types in more urban areas. However, Royals Nation is mostly rural and knowing that hunting was used to lure a player to the Royals probably does more to endear the players to the fan base, than say…. firing Frank White)

I wonder if Raul Ibanez or Tori Hunter would be on the Royals roster if the Royals had a good recruiter and winning culture during their free agency. Rumor has it the money was there to sign these guys, but Kansas City didn’t offer what these players wanted, and it certainly did not offer a winning culture.

From watching the games on TV last season you could tell Francoeur genuinely enjoys playing for the Royals. From the playful sucker-punches during walk off celebrations, to pointing and smiling to teammates who made spectacular plays, Frenchy established himself as a leader on this team. It also helps that he put his money where his mouth is and signed a contact extension during the season.

Aside from actually winning games what the Royals need most is a change of culture. Frenchy seems to be leading the way in that process. His on field production will have to stay somewhat relevant for him to have any credibility. Eric Homser, Mike Moustakas and the other young guys appear to have the same chemistry from coming up through the system together. But Frenchy is the veteran and should display some leadership. If (see, I wasn’t completely sold even before the Frank White news.) we are witnessing a true culture change within the Royals Club House, you have to give Jeff Francoeur some credit for giving this transformation some traction. Maybe he’ll be remembered as a better recruiter than a player.

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