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Why the Royals Didn't Trade Jeff Francoeur

Two weeks ago we discussed in-depth the possibility of the Royals trading Jeff Francoeur. Francoeur started out 2011 hitting well, but he's settled into being Jeff Francoeur since early June. Nevertheless, his season line is one of his best performances in years, and given the decline in offense, that .271/.322/.456 mark is good for an OPS+ of 116, the third highest of his career. Francoeur has also ran often for go-go Yost, stealing 18 bases.

Francoeur's bounce back year at the plate (especially in a traditional stats sense) along with a reasonable salary, a good defensive reputation and an insanely good human being reputation (smiles +speaks english + media friendly + religious = angel) should have made him mildly palatable as a trade target, so why wasn't he moved?

  • Dayton Moore made it known this week that he had interest in keeping Francoeur as a mentor type for the young Royals on the roster. (Apparently guys like Matt Treanor and Billy Butler, or even, gasp, actual coaches, are horrible influences and not to be listened to.) While this may have been hot air, it certainly is believable. We have every reason to assume that the Royals management team truly loves everything intangible about Francoeur.
  • To people that care about results, Francoeur has his flaws. He's got a massive platoon split, and not the helpful kind. He crushes lefties (1.000 lifetime OPS) but is just a .700 OPS guy against righties. That makes Francoeur attractive as a platoon option and problematic as an everyday player. If the Royals love him, why would another team pay full price?
  • Moreover, Francoeur has not responded well to benchings and demotions in the past. He's the Man in Kansas City, a revered team leader that is praised for all he does. How would he handle being a platoon bat in Boston? I guess we'd have to consult the Texas folks to know.
  • In spite of a career high walk rate (6.3% yay!) this season, Francoeur's reputation as an aggressive hitter limits his offensive potential. A .322 OBP doesn't exactly scream impact bat, especially at an outfield corner. Do you seek him out over, say, Josh Willingham, who has the same numbers in a bad year?
  • Francoeur's performance is heavily weighted towards the first quarter of the season. Heading into today's action, since June 1 he's hit .268/.323/.433, with just 4 home runs. 
  • For all the talk in Royals land about Francoeur's resurgent season, here on Deadline Day, it's apparent that he's the same old guy he's always been. 2011 will go down, most likely, as one of his better seasons, but it's just another Jeff Francoeur campaign. It's a consolidation year rather than a breakout.
  • It didn't help that the Astros wised up this deadline. The Astros traded two of their OFs, draining the market a little. I can see Ruben Amaro liking Francoeur as a Pence backup plan, but he didn't need a Pence backup plan. Dayton held out while minor moves for players like Gomes and Hairston were completed and soon there weren't many buyers left.
  • In the end, it seems likely that the Royals wanted a premium price for a player they simply value more than half the teams out there, if not more. The reported price tag of a #3 Major League starter (ready or close to ready) was laughably high. For such a middling player, Francoeur is one of the most known quantities in the game. Unlike Melky Cabrera, his 2011 season has not inspired hope that he's reached/returned to a new performance level. Francoeur and the Royals have a puzzling/pointless mutual option for 2012, that you would assume one party would want to decline in just about any scenario. Still, this is the Royals. If they want Francoeur mentoring now, why would they stop wanting him mentoring next year?

    It's hard to criticize the Royals for turning down two never-will-be prospects who aren't even worthy of taking up space in The Best Farm System Ever. On the other hand, what's the point of keeping him now? It's a scale weighing varying types of meaningless entities. When you factor in the Lorenzo Cain factor, keeping Francoeur looks less palatable. If nothing else, there was benefit to simply getting Francoeur out of the way. Cain is 25 and hitting .319/.390/.520 in AAA. And, you know, he was acquired for some pitcher we used to have.

    I fear a Francoeur extension coming.