(From "Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again," Blonde On Blonde)
Of course, everyone expected it to happen. People have expected the Royals to sign Jeff Francoeur pretty much from the day Dayton Moore took over as general manager. So the fact Moore returned from the winter meetings with Francoeur and Melky Cabrera as his big offseason acquisitions was certainly no surprise.
What does surprise me is that, after years of dreading the sight of Frenchy in Royal blue, the actual news didn't bother me that much. Look, Francoeur is not a good player. He probably won't even be an average player. For his career, he's put up a 91 OPS+, and that's been almost entirely in the weaker National League. He is famous for his lack of plate discipline, which is the last thing the Royals' offense needed.
On the other hand, here we have a player who will turn 27 in January, so he is theoretically in his prime. Here we have a player who has won a Gold Glove (admittedly, Gold Gloves are not always the best measuring stick for defensive ability; on the other hand, you normally have to have some defensive skill to win one). Here we have a player who hit 29 homers one season and 19 in another one. So he does have some ability. And he is a right-handed hitter, something the Royals did need (all the other outfielders on the roster are lefties or switch-hitters).
The question is, will Francoeur be able to reclaim those abilities? I would guess no, but there is a chance. Let's face it, being a Georgia native, having a tremendous rookie year, being on the cover of Sports Illustrated--there had to be a lot of pressure on Francoeur when he was a Brave. From there, he went to the Mets, which has to be a different sort of pressure. Perhaps he can relax a bit and just play as a Royal. And really, the Royals invested very little in finding out--a one-year, $2.5 million contract. I'm not worried about the $4 million mutual option for 2012; if Francoeur is somehow good in 2011, he'll likely decline the option and be a free agent, but if he is, well, Jeff Francoeur, the Royals will likely cut bait. Heck, if he is good in 2011, he might very well be traded in July, and if Moore can match some of those good-looking trades he made this past season, Francoeur might be worth the money.
Also, the Royals' paramount concern this offseason had to be clearing the way for the promising minor-leaguers they have. On a one-year contract, Francouer is not likely to block any prospects (in fact, corner outfield might be the system's biggest weakness at the moment). Basically, he's a placeholder.
Many of these arguments can also be applied to the Royals' other free-agent addition, Melky Cabrera. He obviously has ability--you don't get to start for the Yankees at age 21 if you aren't good. He hasn't blossomed into the player he looked like he could be back then, but he just turned 26. And the Royals invested even less in him than they did Francoeur--just $1.25 million for 2011.
I don't expect either Cabrera or Francoeur to make a major impact on the 2011 Royals. It's highly unlikely these two will lead KC to an AL Central title. Really, the best-case scenario is that both play relatively well and are traded in July for more prospects. And perhaps now Dayton Moore has gotten the Francoeur bug out of his system.