Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Cutting Jeff Francoeur

Posted by JD on January 4, 2010

The title of this post might lead you think I actively dislike Jeff Francoeur, but that’s not the case. I’m not the president of his fan club (that would be @simplyedna) but I don’t dislike the guy. He seems genuinely likeable. I’ve seen him stop to sign autographs after games, he handles the press as if he’s been here for years, and he played Santa at the team Christmas party. He even hit as many home runs as a Met last year as David Wright did in a little more than half the games (144 vs. 75). There are positives to having Jeff Francoeur on your team. I get it. I’ll be happy to root for him if he’s on the Mets this season.

But there are definite negatives, too. He’s eligible for arbitration and the Mets have a history of signing players before getting to that point. That means there’s a good chance that they’ll sign him for $5 million or so (I could see it getting as high as $6.5), and they could potentially extend his contract beyond 2010 (why they would do that is beyond me, but I wouldn’t put it past them). His “intangibles” (and most of his “tangibles”) lose their value at that price.

Here’s a quick comparison: Angel Pagan played 88 games for the Mets last year and Francoeur played 75, which is about the same. They’re OPS+ numbers were almost identical: 121 OPS+ for Pagan and 120 for Francoeur. Defensively, Pagan played all three outfield positions while Francoeur was limited to right field, yet according to Baseball Reference Pagan was worth 20.8 runs fielding runs above average while Francoeur was worth only 3. That’s for the entire season: when you drill down to those 75 games he played for the Mets, Francoeur was a worth -24.1 runs (that’s negative, as in below average). He simply didn’t field as well as his reputation indicates (in fairness, he injured his throwing thumb and played hurt in a lot of those games).

That’s a small sample size, to be sure. I wouldn’t want the Mets to base their entire decision on just those 75 games, but I sure as hell think they’re worth considering. I get the feeling (and his participation in the annual Christmas party is a major indicator to me) that the Mets have all but resigned him, and that kills me because they’ll basically be paying him 10 times what they’re paying Pagan for roughly the same performance.

Here’s a semi-crazy idea: why not renounce Francoeur’s rights and sign Xavier Nady? Given his injury history, Nady is a major risk, so much so that I hesitate to even suggest this transaction (one of Francoeur’s unassailable strengths is his ability to stay healthy: he WILL play at least 150 games next year). But yet it makes sense to me. Given his history, Nady should be available for one season for less than $5 million. Play him in right field versus right handed pitchers and at first base against lefties. That’s a Pagan/Nady right field platoon combined with a Murphy/Nady first base platoon. Sign Jack Cust to steal a few starts from both (and double as the lefty power threat off the bench) and you have a four headed monster that multiplies the bench’s versatility.

Yes, my scenario hinges on Nady staying healthy. I know that’s a lot to ask. But if he got hurt you’d still have a Cust/Pagan platoon in right and you could call up a replacement player from AAA to shore up the bench. It wouldn’t be ideal, but it would still be a better use of the Mets’ resources.

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2 Responses to “Cutting Jeff Francoeur”

  1. Paul said

    I think the boat has already sailed on non-tendering Francoeur. Besides, I’m not sure why you’d really want to.

    There are an awful lot of question marks with your plan. You’d have to sign Cust and Nady, then hope that Nady was healthy.

    With so many other problems with the team to address, I’d rather see the front office deal with Francoeur’s arbitration award and worry about the starting rotation and bullpen instead.

    I do agree that Francoeur is not worth signing to a multi-year deal based on his performance to date.

    • JD said

      I agree with you that pitching is a higher priority and should be their focus now. I think I may have confused hockey’s arbitration rules from baseball’s. In hockey, you can walk away from an arbitration award. You don’t get any compensation and the player immediately becomes a free agent, but the team isn’t stuck with the salary. I thought this applied to baseball, too. If it doesn’t, then the boat has definitely sailed.

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