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Nick Bromberg

Same old Royals? Jeff Francoeur climbs aboard for '11 campaign

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During the middle of November, Kansas City Royals' GM Dayton Moore told the Kansas City Star's Bob Dutton that the team wasn't going to be active on the free-agent market.

"It's not cost effective at this time for us to be real aggressive with major-league free agents," Moore said. [...]

"Our stance on potentially adding something (major through free-agency) is it would really have to fit long term. That guy doesn't exist right now, and I don't know who that would be.

"We're not just going to add somebody to make our payroll higher for one year."

Well, where does Jeff Francoeur(notes) fit, Dayton?

The Royals announced on Wednesday that the
team had signed Francouer to a one-year deal worth a reported $2.5 million (plus incentives) with a mutual option for 2012. He does fill the need for a right-handed corner outfielder, but he's not a long-term solution and makes the team's payroll higher for one year (and maybe two).

So what gives?

As a Royals fan, this feels more and more like the same old Royals. Maybe Moore thinks that he's going to catch lightning in a bottle with Francoeur. After all, Moore was with the Braves when Francouer was the talk of Major League Baseball — before his lack of plate discipline was exposed — and Moore got a career year out of another former Braves prospect in Wilson Betemit(notes) in 2010. Does he think he can go two-for-two with Francoeur?

Francouer has a career .735 OPS and had a .357 OBP in 56 PAs for the Rangers last year. But don't let the apparent success in that last small sample size fool you. He still hasn't learned how to take a walk, as his average with the Rangers was a sky-high .340.

If Francoeur serves as the right-handed alternative to Alex Gordon(notes) in one of the corner outfield positions, the deal may work out well for the Royals. Gordon hasn' t learned how to hit lefties, and while Francoeur's career splits versus southpaws aren't overwhelming, they're better than Gordon's and significantly better than his numbers against righties.

But remember, I am a Royals fan. I have a sinking feeling that Francoeur is going to get 400 plate appearances in 2011, with far too many of them coming against right-handed pitching.

Moore has said that improving the team's OBP was a priority and the team traded away one of its best players at getting on base in David DeJesus(notes). Jeff Francoeur is no David DeJesus.

2012 can't get here soon enough. By any and all accounts, the Royals have the best farm system in baseball, and some of those prospects will be in Kansas City in August while the Royals are once again out of the race for the AL Central. And that's completely acceptable for a team that is, once again, rebuilding.

But when — not if — those noncompetitive dog days of summer roll around, Francouer's presence shouldn't prevent any of the Royals' highly touted young players from getting time in the big leagues. And he certainly shouldn't be around in 2012, when the Royals should have legitimate optimism for the first time in a long time.

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