July 11, 2009
BASEBALL: The French Reclamation
The most important take-home lesson from the Mets' deal of Ryan Church for Jeff Francouer is that the team is rebuilding. Church is not a great ballplayer, but he's a useful one; Francouer, right now, is not. Offensively, he does nothing: hit for average, hit for power, draw walks, steal bases. Francouer is, like Oliver Perez in 2006, a complete recalamation project, a talented athlete who needs to relearn from square one how to play baseball. In the present tense, his only actual strengths are his durability and his great throwing arm in right field.
That's not to say that Francouer, like Perez in the 2006 NLCS, might not have a well-timed hot streak, or might not, like Richard Hidalgo, have a good first month as a Met. But over the 2008-09 seasons, Francouer has posted a .243/.290/.357 batting line over 976 plate appearances, which is a serious problem for a catcher or a shortstop; for a right fielder, it's death.
If there's a hopeful parallel for Francouer, it's Jose Guillen, a similar player who showed some flashes of hitting talent but no plate discipline at age 21-22 (assuming Guillen is his reported age, that is), then proceeded to bat .252/.310/.381 while playing for four teams over four seasons from age 23-26. Guillen eventually found his swing, batting .286/.343/.489 and averaging 100 RBI per 162 games from age 27-31. Francouer could certianly do the same - but betting on him to help the Mets in 2009 is not something anyone committed to winning in the present tense would do (in fact, anyone who wants to finish ahead of the Braves would never have relieved them from the gaping wound Francouer represented in their lineup, much less given them in return a hustling player with an enormous grievance against the Mets for his treatment by the team's Keystone Kops medical staff).
Meanwhile, the Mariners have dumped Yuniesky Betancourt on the Royals for prospects. Betancourt is basically the same player as Francouer, a good athlete with a great arm and no plate discipline who has regressed since his early 20s as a hitter. Of course, Betancourt is a shortstop....I understand what Seattle and KC are both trying to accomplish: the Mariners are trying to make a point and add smarter, more dedicated ballplayers and discard the apathy of the past few seasons, while the Royals, their sights set perpetually low and their shortstop (Mike Aviles) having Tommy John surgery, are looking to buy low on a guy who plugs a hole and might help them just a little if he ends up being just marginally more dedicated to self-improvement than Angel Berroa was.
Watching to the game on the TV, the Mets announcers were acting like the Mets had just fleeced the Braves and saved the season. Or at least that is how they sounded. I am trying to determine if they are delusional or have been ordered to play it up by the front office.
Honestly, when I first heard the trade it immediately struck me as a white flag. The thing is when you put up a white flag, you are supposed to trade established players for something you can use down the road. I don't see Frenchy being useful ever. He's probably the worst hitter on the Mets now, other than some of the AAA replacements.
I would like to compare this to the Juan Samuel trade, except that (a) Church is not Roger McDowell, much less Lenny Dykstra and (b) Frenchy is not nearly as good as Samuel. Oof.
Not sure about Berroa, but Betancourt's dedication to self-improvement is notoriously low.
You have to understand, Pena Jr. is hitting about .100. I do question giving up the top rnked arm on the farm as par tof the deal. By the way, I would gladdly trade Jose Guillan for Francouer in a heart beat.
Fire Omar. this is a do nothing/distraction trade. The team needed more, and the fans deserved more. Everyone needs to go. i would trade wright for new, and less pathetically moronic, owners. god bless bernie, and anyone else that causes the wilpons sleep loss and pain.
For what it's worth, madirishperson, the Royals had the chance to trade Guillen for Frenchy last winter, and declined. Which is another stick of evidence in the "who has the most clueless General Manager" sweepstakes, a contest in which the Mets take a back seat to no team.
I would hope the Mets are rebuilding. Following the Dodgers this year, I became accustomed and, indeed expected, amusing errors. Colossal errors. Errors offensive to baseball itself.
DD, you are right. I don't remember the details of the deal, but either the Royals would have had to pay most of Guillen's salary or there were other players involved that they didn't want to let go of. Personally, if I would have made the deal either way. With Francouer at least there is a chance of him getting better.
Why take YB when Julio Lugo was and is still available?
This trade isnt just a long term move. 3/5 of the Phillies rotation is lefthanded and the Marlins have two lefties of their own. Thus Francouer is a tactical improvement over Church in terms of chasing down the teams ahead of the Mets, even if he, overall, is a lesser player than Church right now.
One lesson to take away from Jeff Francoeur's time in Atlanta is to be skeptical when everyone crowns someone as the Next Big Thing, or his case The Next Dale Murphy, before they do anything. In Francoeur's case, the Braves were still saying it in 2007, which was before his big collapse, but still after he had been the league a few years and demonstrated that he was not anything close to Dale Murphy.
The Jose Guillen comparison is interesting and I think it's possible that he could get back to his 2005-2007 form, and having low expectations might help.
A guy I'd liken Francouer to is Jason Werth. Both have good, if overly long swings, both are good OF's with decent speed and good arms (Jeff probably being a little better.) There's no reason why Francoeur can't do for the Mets what Werth does for the Phils, especially in providing power against lefties.
Has Francoeur been to a shrink?