Royals That Might Be Traded: Jeff Francoeur

It seemed a foregone conclusion this off-season that the Royals would sign Jeff Francoeur, and Dayton Moore did not disappoint. Most of you know the Jeff Francoeur story; top prospect who played well in his first season for the Braves, underwhelmed in his second season, was decent in his third season, and then struggled in his next three seasons  for three different teams. As a Royal, however, Francoeur has sort of redeemed himself. His triple slash is .265/.308/.443, good for a wOBA of .329. He has been a slightly above-average hitter this season, his wRC+ stands at 105. Combine those numbers with solid defense, and Frenchy has been worth 1.8 WAR. What kind of return might Jeff bring back if the Royals wanted to trade him?

In order to guess how much value Francoeur will have on the trade market, we first must try and predict how well he will perform over the rest of the season. ZiPS believes that Jeff will post a .320 wOBA the rest of the season; the projection system has Frenchy with a higher BA and OBP, but with lower SB and SLG numbers. A decrease in steals seems plausible, especially if Francoeur gets traded; most teams will not be as aggressive with their rightfielder as the Royals are. Assuming that Francoeur posts a .320 wOBA the rest of the season and continues to field as well as he has this season (UZR/150 of 9.3), I calculated the Jeff will be worth 1.3 wins above replacement the rest of the season. If Francoeur hits better than the projections think he will (wOBA of .325), he would end up being worth 1.6 wins the rest of the season, assuming he has a similar number of at-bats.

Francoeur is relatively inexpensive; the rightfielder is due 1.25 million dollars the rest of the season. Wins this season have roughly been valued at 5 million dollars per win. If Frenchy provided 1.3 WAR the rest of the year, he would be worth 5.25 million dollars in excess value if the Royals dump his contract, or 6.5 million dollars if the Royals pay the rest of his money. According to Victor Wang's research, a Grade B hitter is roughly worth 5.5 million dollars in value; Jeff could possibly be swapped for one higher-level prospect. If the Royals choose to acquire multiple prospects who are a little lower, a couple of C+ pitchers younger than 22 would roughly be an equal return for Francoeur's services.

What teams might be interested in trading for Frenchy? The Phillies and Red Sox have had horrendous play from the rightfielders this season, and both of them have lefties starting/splitting time in the outfield (Domonic Brown and J.D. Drew) . Francoeur hits southpaws very well, so he may still be attractive to both teams even if he does not factor in as their primary starter. If Francoeur, however, gets traded as strictly a platoon player, we would expect his return to be less. Austin Kearns has been atrocious this season, and with Shin-Soo Choo on the DL, the Indians may be looking for rightfield help. The Rockies like to platoon Seth Smith in right, and Jeff would be an improvement on offense and defense over Ryan Spilborghs

Frenchy has been traded twice in his career; once for Ryan Church and once for Joaquin Arias. Neither of those deals are great comparisons to what the Royals might get for Francoeur this year because Jeff was struggling those seasons. Scott Hairston that same season was able to net two C+ pitchers for the Padres. Xavier Nady was packaged with Damaso Marte to bring back four prospects, including a "B+" hitter Jose Tabata. Nady hit much better than Francouer that season, but Jeff has been a much better defender, so their value is similar. The Royals don't have as good as a LOOGY as Marte, but Bruce Chen packaged with Frenchy might get a similar return. Strictly righthanded platoon hitters/bench players like Trot Nixon or Austin Kearns have been acquired for relatively cheap in the past, but Frenchy should bring more value to a contender than those two.

If Francoeur is traded before the deadline, the Royals should be able to land some useful prospects for his talents. My guess, however, is that Francoeur will not be traded. There seems to be some talk around baseball that the Royals do not want to unload all of their veterans, and there is no top prospect that is really pushing to replace Jeff right now. Francoeur has a mutual option for next season worth 4 million dollars, so unless he expects a large payday this off-season (if he continues to play well, he may want a raise) I could easily picture a scenario where both parties pick it up. Wil Myers is far enough away that the Royals could unload Jeff next trade deadline, or let him finish out his contract for the Royals. Dayton Moore certainly may swap Frenchy for some prospects, but if the asking price is not what he expects, I would not be surprised to see the Royals to hold onto Francoeur.

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