Last Saturday, the Royals cut ties with outfielder Jeff Francoeur, designating him for assignment. Taking his place is infielder Johnny Giavotella, who will get regular playing time at second base.
Royals fans clamored for these moves, but it’s too early to tell if they will make a difference. This year, Francoeur spent most of his time on the bench and ended up with a .208/.249/.322 line with three home runs and 13 RBI. Giavotella went three for four with two RBI in his 2013 debut against the Minnesota Twins and went 0-3 with a walk against the Cleveland Indians Tuesday night.
Giavotella will get plenty of playing time at second, with Chris Getz being sent down to AAA Omaha. Giavotella still doesn’t have the defensive prowess of an Elliot Johnson (or Chris Getz for that matter), but he does have offense, something desperately needed in the Royals lineup. Giavotella didn’t make the most of his opportunities at second base the other times he was on the team, but with Getz in Omaha, Giavotella will get an opportunity to see if he belongs in the Big Leagues.
As for Francoeur, it was a move that needed to be done. He couldn’t find his hitting stroke and with David Lough and Jarrod Dyson playing well, the Royals weren’t doing themselves or Francoeur any favors. The players and the team like Francoeur and he does have leadership qualities, but he wasn’t getting it done on the field. And Francoeur would be the first to admit he wasn’t playing well enough to stay with the Royals.
These moves needed to be done, but there’s still more issues the Royals need to overcome if they hope to become contenders in the A.L. Central. Mike Moustakas is improving with a .218/.279/.326 average, but he still has a long way to go. Wade Davis is 0-3 in his last three starts and Jeremy Guthrie went 1-1 with a no decision. In those games, the Royals went 1-5. Billy Butler is still being Billy Butler, but he isn’t hitting with power, with only one home run in June. Alex Gordon had a rough June with only three extra base hits, but with his grand slam Tuesday night, he appeared to be getting on track again. That is, until Gordon left Wednesday night’s game with a concussion and a hip contusion. Let’s hope Gordon makes a quick recovery.
Given all the Royals troubles this year, they’re still hanging in there. They had a 16-11 June and were 38-42 on July 2, 5.5 games back of the Indians. But they need to do more than tread water. They need to win games and win series to get above .500 and contend.