(From "You Ain't Going Nowhere," The Basement Tapes)
"You" in this case being Jeff Francoeur. And he ain't going nowhere for at least two years after signing a contract extension with the Royals.
The move was announced this morning, and although this is an incredibly busy time at work for me, I tried to follow the discussion on Twitter. Frankly, I was taken aback by the hate for this move, especially before we even knew the financial details.
Now that we do know the details--$13.5 million over two years--it's easier to pass judgement on this deal. And my judgement is: this deal is not awful, but I wouldn't call myself a fan.
When the Royals signed Frenchy over the winter, I actually thought it was a decent addition. Now that we're 75% of the way through the season, it's obvious that it was a terrific addition. A 119 OPS+, a gun for a right arm, and yes, leadership--Francoeur has been a valuable player for the Royals this year. Of course, my hope when the Royals signed him was that he would play well and then be traded to fill a position of need.
However, a couple of things have changed since then. First, the Royals have evidently decided they can compete in the AL Central in 2012. Second, some of the bloom has come off the Wil Myers prospect rose.
As I've said before, I do think the Royals can compete next year. Obviously, the starting pitching will have to have considerable improvement, whether through trade, free agent signing, or simply having one of the talented young relievers in the bullpen adapt quickly to starting next year. Or having Mike Montgomery somehow overcome a disappointing 2011 season and contribute. At any rate, if you plan on contending, it's nice to have a right fielder on pace for roughly 20 homers, 45 doubles, 88 RBI, 25 stolen bases and 16 outfield assists.
It's especially nice when you don't have an apparent successor ready in the minor leagues. With all the talent that has come up to the majors this year, Wil Myers is probably the top position player prospect left in the farm system. After he raked at Class A Wilmington last year (in what is normally a terrible hitters' park), it seemed like he would be ready for the majors soon. But now, in a terrific hitters' park in Northwest Arkansas, Myers is...well, not struggling. But not doing outstanding, either. His OPS is .727, which is not bad but not really setting the world on fire. Most concerning is his lack of power; he only has 5 homers in 82 games coming in to tonight's games. That was a good week for Mike Moustakas as a Natural. This isn't meant to say that Myers is a bust. He's still just 20 and having a decent year at Double-A. He just doesn't look like he will be ready for the majors until 2013 now.
Faced with these developments, the Royals are obviously betting that Francoeur will overcome his historical pattern of starting off well for a team and then struggling. There is certainly a chance that this pattern will continue next year. I do think this is about as good a season as he is capable of. And if he falls off a lot, this contract will look terrible. If he falls off a little, it looks underwhelming. If he somehow continues this level of production, then it probably is about right. And there's my concern: I feel like the Royals overpaid slightly for a player who is having a very good season and has a decent chance of never being this good again. Then again, if the total dollars had been in the $11-12 million range, I would think that was fair. That is why I'm not that upset about it.