Amazingly, the Mets managed not only to unload Jeff Francouer yesterday (were the Rangers looking at their lineup and thinking, “we really need a guy who makes more outs”?), but also to get an actual Major League baseball player in return, Joaquin Arias. In seriousness, the theory behind the deal seems to be to use Francouer as a platoon player:
About $897K remains on Francoeur’s contract, but the Mets will pay most of that. The 26-year-old is hitting just .236/.293/.369 in 443 plate appearances, so he was a non-tender candidate on the Mets and remains one on the Rangers.
Like most right-handed hitters, Francoeur has markedly better numbers against left-handed pitching, both for his career (.820 OPS) and in 2010 (.767 OPS). David Murphy struggles against left-handers, so the Rangers needed a right-handed complement to Murphy, especially given Nelson Cruz’s hamstring and Josh Hamilton’s knee.
This sounds good, until you look a little closer. Francouer’s line against lefties this season is .280/.351/.410, but his OBP drops to .321 if you exclude his intentional walks (5 of his 11 walks in 114 plate appearances against lefties have been intentional). He crushed lefties to the tune of .344/.356/.521 last season, but was helpless against them in 2008 (.210/.273/.307). In other words, the one thing he’s being hired to do, he doesn’t even do all that reliably (I will miss his throwing arm, though, which is genuinely marvelous).
As for Arias, he’s also a limited player (as Dr. Manhattan pointed out to me, the Rangers must regret choosing Arias over Robinson Cano to include in the A-Rod/Soriano deal), but cheaper, a year younger than Francouer (25 to Frenchy’s 26) and one of more immediate use to the Mets. His career batting line is .286/.322/.379 over 242 major league plate appearances (.291/.314/.393 away from Texas), .285/.317/.378 over nine minor league seasons, and he’s stolen 28 bases per 162 games in the minors. That’s not a great offensive asset, but a guy who can play second and short, hit .280 and steal some bases is at least worth something. Of more concern is the quality of his defense, which is likely why he was available and makes questionable whether he could take over Luis Castillo’s job if Castillo is gone next year and Ruben Tejada continues to be miles from ready to hit major league pitching.
While I’m not over-optimistic about Arias, Francouer is addition by subtraction and a sign the team is serious about making some changes and not marrying its mistakes. Baby steps.
(H/T for the photo)
UPDATED for a great line: “if you praise Jeff Francoeur and Alex Cora for their grittiness, while bashing Jose Reyes, you lose the right to complain about the team not winning.”