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Royals Sign Two, Neither Good

Finally some action at these winter meetings. I would have put an exclamation point after that sentence, but the action for the Royals included two…sit down for this…former Braves. Since the last time we talked yesterday morning, the Royals have inked Jeff Francouer to a 1 year deal worth $2.5 million plus $500k in incentives with a $3 million mutual 2012 option. Anybody doubt that’s getting picked up? And then, in the less predictable move, the Royals have appeared to sign Melky Cabrera to a 1 year deal worth $1.25 million. Let me say this before I get into it and sound all negative: these deals don’t really mean anything in the grand scheme of the organization. This is still a team poised to have a ton of young talent* and compete in the near future. These are placeholders.

*If you want to know the joke I was going to say but was way too politically correct to type here, let me know on Twitter – @DBLesky – and I’ll give it to you.

Let’s get started with Francouer because he was the first to sign and he’s first in Dayton Moore’s heart. Rumors have been swirling for a few years now that the Royals would be an eventual landing place for Frenchy. It just made too much sense, and like a kid in a candy store with nobody paying attention, Dayton was good for as long as he could be, but he finally took the candy. The problem is that candy is way better than Francouer. He has his uses certainly as he’s good against left-handed pitching, but the problem is that this is the Royals we’re talking about and they’ve already said that Francouer will be the every day right fielder. Obviously, that may change if there’s a corner outfielder who is Major League ready as the return in a Greinke deal, but for now they’re saying all the wrong things.

We talked a little bit about Francouer in the free agent corner outfielders piece, but let’s get into him a little more. On the surface, this is the type of signing the Royals should be making. They overspent just a little bit for what Francouer is, but what’s $1 million between friends? He’s entering his supposed prime years, has some pop, plays decent defense and is supposed to be a good clubhouse guy. He’s also an out machine, but in a year where you don’t expect to compete, it’s worth the risk to see if some of his potential can be unlocked. I don’t hate this signing because Ned Yost is the manager and not Trey Hillman. He seems to have an ability to get the most of his players, so I think there’s a chance that this works out well. Odds are it won’t, but this one doesn’t strike me as hopeless.

As I mentioned above, Francouer does not get on base very often. I happen to believe that’s a direct result of him not liking his first base coaches, so hopefully he and Doug Sisson can develop a good relationship. Francouer one time questioned the importance of OBP by asking why it’s not on the scoreboard if it’s so important. It is in most stadiums, including Kauffman. More than anything, I’m not a fan of Francouer because of his baseball skills. He’s just not very good, but in today’s baseball world $2.5 million isn’t much of an investment.

Beyond that, though, I question his attitude to an extent as well. I know he’s lauded as being a great clubhouse guy, but in his first interview after signing with the Royals he talked about how he’s not a bench player and that’s not a good fit for him. It almost made it seem like he wouldn’t accept a bench role if that’s what it came to with the Royals. Ironically enough, he performed well for the Rangers down the stretch (small sample size alert) while being put in the role of bench player. Yes, I’d rather a player want to play then be content on the bench, but I also want a player to understand that what’s best for the team is best for him. The other thing goes back to his quote about on base percentage. While it is a humorous quote to remember, it does indicate the fact that he’s been snippy before and will be snippy again. I know these are just two isolated incidents, and I’m certainly not saying he’s Jose Guillen or Milton Bradley. I’m just saying that it might be a good idea to ease up on the leadership talk until we’ve seen him in action in the Royals clubhouse.

Melky Cabrera is a slightly different case than Francouer. He’s in more of the DeJesus mold of a baseball player. If all goes well with Melky, the Royals will have a new version of DDJ, but for a bit under a quarter of the price. In Cabrera, the Royals have a guy who can draw a walk without much power. If I didn’t have knowledge of the Royals’ roster, I’d probably love this move as an opportunity to buy low on a guy who can play center competently, take a walk, hit with a modicum of power and steal a few bases. He just doesn’t make any sense, though, on this team. Yesterday was reminiscent of last off-season when the Royals signed Podsednik and Brian Anderson and then later signed Rick Ankiel. It just doesn’t seem like there’s a real plan in place. If he’s the fourth outfielder, that’s fine, but I’d much rather have Gregor Blanco or Mitch Maier than Cabrera. Ultimately, they’re pretty interchangeable, and it doesn’t make much of a difference.

As we’ve talked about a lot in the past, luck can make or break a season and it’s a good indicator of things to come as regression to the mean occurs. Cabrera’s BABIP last season was .288, which is a touch low for his 19% line drive rate, but not more than a standard deviation away, so we can probably expect that to go up a bit, but not enough to really make a huge difference. One thing that jumped out at me is that he was only getting a home run on 3.1% of his flyballs which is an extremely low number as he’d never been below 5% before. I think as he ages, that number will go up and should counteract the effects of moving to Kauffman Stadium. While I’m not a fan of the move, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a .280/.360/.400 season out of Cabrera. My biggest concern with him is his weight as he’s gotten bigger and bigger over the last few years to the point that he was a big time negative in the outfield last season. Defensive stats are finicky, so I’m not going to get too upset about them just yet, but if he proves that his weight is an issue, a $1.25 million salary isn’t much to cut.

Ultimately, I just don’t see the direction in these two signings. I could understand one and could even potentially defend it if just one of these players became a Royal, but both of them just seems fishy. Of course, we could come to find out that the best way to move Greinke and get what they want in return is to move Gordon. If the organization has already decided that Gordon is not a part of the future, then why not trade him if it improves the return? Admittedly, an outfield of normal weight Cabrera, Dyson and Francouer inspires a fair amount of confidence and will be a great boost to the pitching staff. For now, though, it’s just another puzzling series of moves that have defined the Dayton Moore regime.

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