Thursday, August 18, 2011

Francoeur Extended

In case you haven't heard or didn't see it coming from miles away the Royals elected to extend Jeff Francoeur earlier this morning. Francoeur was the only of the three Royals outfielders that weren't already under team control for next season. Considering management's infatuation with him, the fact that Frenchy is having a good season by league standards, and how Francoeur clearly would love to be back in Kansas City for Mission 2012.

Francoeur, who will make $2.5 million this season, had a mutual option for 2012 for $4 million. Now though he is signed to a two year extension that will be worth a total of $13.5 million. Is anyone really surprised?

So what does this extension mean? First let's just examine if Francouer is worth the amount of money the Royals will be paying him over the next couple of seasons. At this point in time, the fine people at Fangraphs believe that each Win Above Replacement is worth about $4.4 million (roughly).

So far this season according to Fangraphs Jeff Francoeur is worth 2.3 WAR, meaning that he has been worth $10.1 million on the open market. Obviously these figures are debatable. However, Fangraphs does its best to provide a dollar figure for player's values and that is the best we have to go on at the moment.

So if this market value continue to hold true, Jeff Francoeur will need to produce 3.1 WAR over the next two seasons in order to achieve fair value for the contract. Over his career Frenchy has averaged being worth 1.5 WAR a season. However, over the past three seasons that figure drops to just 1.1 WAR.

As Joe Pawlikowski displays in this article, Jeff Francoeur numbers this season do not appear to be an outlier compared to the rest of his career. Instead his offensive numbers seem to have remained consistent while the rest of the league has regressed. What this has done for Francoeur is turn his below average offensive production and turned it into above average. When you consider that Francoeur is twenty-seven and entering his prime years it isn't outrageous at all to suggest for the next couple of seasons he could at least be as good offensively as he has been in 2011.

On the low end, let's say Frenchy regresses to his three year average in WAR production and only contributes a total of 2.2 WAR over the next two seasons. If that happens he will be worth a 9.7 million dollar deal. Should he contribute 4.6 WAR and keep up his play at 2011 standards, he would be worth $20.2 million.

I suppose this is a long way of saying that based on the figures for the contract Jeff Francoeur could very well wind up being paid more than what he is worth. However, just as likely he could be a bargain for the next couple of seasons. I believe Rany said it best after the extension today (and I am paraphrasing here) how often can a time sign an outfielder entering his prime with the kind of tools that Jeff Francoeur has for this kind of money?

I am not willing to call this a bargain for the Royals, but it would appear that they have paid pretty fair market price for their charismatic right fielder. If you are a believer in the intangibles that Francoeur brings to the clubhouse than you also have to consider those benefits as well.

So what is the opportunity cost here for the Royals? Well considering that the Royals and Alex Gordon have already stated that an extension for the pair is a goal in the offseason, it probably means that an extension for Melky is very unlikely.

At this point Gordon and Frenchy are both under control through the 2013 seasons. Melky is under control for 2012. Is it even feasible that the Royals totally commit to their current outfield through 2013? I can't see it happening. Not this offseason at least.

So what the Royals have done is elected to commit to Francoeur long term, while going year to year with Melky. Melky by the way has been a vastly superior player to Frenchy this season. Cabrera has contributed a WAR of 3.6 and has played a premium position.

Even though Cabrera has been a better player and signing for the Royals this season, was there anyone that thought he was more likely to be extended than Francoeur? I doubt it. Cabrera's ability to play center and switch hit coupled with the fact that he has had a better season than Francoeur should have made him a better fit to sign to a multi-year deal.

In the end, Dayton Moore and company knew that they wanted Francoeur back and quite frankly they may not have been able to do that on a one year deal. By selecting Francoeur as the man to receive an extension they were able to keep the entire outfield intact.

The Royals could have very easily picked up their half of Francoeur's mutual option. If he would have accepted, it would have been a great deal. If he would have declined the Royals could then have offered him arbitration. If Francoeur would have accepted that once again there is only a small financial commitment and it is just for one season. If he would have declined arbitration the Royals could have patted themselves on the back, been proud of their thrifty signing, and hoped that Francoeur obtained Type B free agent status and netted them a supplemental draft choice.

If the Royals would have taken this route they could have shifted Melky Cabrera over to right field next season and hand the centerfield job to Lorenzo Cain. This wouldn't have been a bad route at all. Truthfully I would have preferred the Royals take this route.

What this signing also means is that the Royals don't view Wil Myers as a guy that will be ready by mid 2012. There is nothing wrong with this and it definitely isn't a shot at Wil Myers. But what it means is that Myers should now be afforded at least another season or a season and a half in the minors before he will be able to really push for a big league job.

By signing Francoeur the Royals are able to add to their inventory now and in the future. Obviously they wanted Francoeur back in 2012, and without at least a two year extension they probably couldn't have been sure that he would return. My unimpressive and boring conclusion to all of this is that like the Francoeur signing last winter, this signing isn't a detrimental move. It is predictable. It does offer some positives, but these are about as high end as the potential negatives.

It isn't the route I would have taken. But it isn't a route that will hurt the Royals either. But when the Royals resign Jeff Francoeur to another two years in 2013, it will be a different story.

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