Francoeur Signing is Underwhelming
When the Cleveland Indians signed Jeff Francoeur on Monday, the dull ache that came with the sub-zero temperatures moved from the joints in my knees to right behind my right eyeball. For a moment, time stood still in Cleveland, as fans rejoiced with the news of the horrific signing, with many folks placing their life savings on green at the Horseshoe Casino, realizing that there was nothing left to live for.
For a team that has been so very inactive this winter, it was nice to see this signing (as well as a rumored interest in Bobby Abreu), but is this the depth that the club really needs? Looking at the outfield, it seems as though the club has created a solid platoon after re-signing Ryan Raburn and adding David Murphy earlier this winter, while Michael Brantley and Michael Bourn appear like mortal locks in left field and center field, respectively.
It appears that Carlos Santana could get a look at first, third, catcher, and designated hitter, which could allow Nick Swisher to still patrol right occasionally in 2014, and with Brantley’s ability to cover center due to any long-term injury to Bourn, the team still has some flexibility. But this isn’t really the signing that many were looking for out of Cleveland.
Sure, it’s a minor league contract, which includes a $1 million salary if Francoeur makes the Opening Day roster (plus incentives). Sure, Francoeur has a career .285/.335/.465 triple-slash in 1,428 plate appearances against left-handed pitching, but Michael Brantley isn’t really awful enough against left-handed pitchers to warrant a fifth outfielder when the club could be carrying Jason Giambi, who, like it or not, has very little value outside of amazing walk-off home runs, #veteranpresents, and sweet road trip discounts at local Bob Evan’s restaurants.
A 25-man roster is difficult to manipulate, and the club already has a lefty-masher in Raburn, whose career .828 OPS and 37 home runs in 854 plate appearances, as well as his ability to handle second base, give the club much more versatility. Not to mention, with the unknown of the starting rotation, which could include any two of Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, and Carlos Carrasco, would the Tribe be better off with an extra arm in the bullpen over another fringy bat?
This signing wasn’t a huge investment and the Indians likely aren’t counting on Jeff Francoeur receiving or earning anywhere near 400 plate appearances in 2014, but they need to hope that this is solely for depth and nothing more. At just 30 years of age, Francoeur is six years removed from his last season of being a good starter (WAR of 3+), and while he had a decent year in 2011 (2.5 WAR for Kansas City), he has a .226/.272/.354 triple-slash and a -2.9 WAR since the start of the 2012 season.
This may be a good gamble, but I’d rather put my whole bank account on green than watch Jeff Francoeur play baseball on a regular basis for anyone in baseball, especially the Indians.