As you’re all well aware, Jeff Francoeur will be the Mets new everyday rightfielder. The reaction on this site and all over the blogosphere has been quite vocal, to say the least. I have noticed a share of fans panning the deal, despite the fact that Francoeur has yet to play his first game in a Mets uniform. I will not attempt to compare Ryan Church to Francoeur in this post. I will leave that to other writers on this site. Instead, I will attempt to give you a different perspective on Jeff Francoeur and hope that you will accept him as your new rightfielder. After all, the name on the front of his jersey now says “Mets”, so we should support him as a member of our team.
In New York, in addition to getting the job done, fans demand a hard worker on the field day in and day out. This is why fans loved players such as Ty Wigginton. He never put up All-Star caliber numbers, but he was a hard-nosed player who did the little things to help the team win. From bowling over a catcher while attempting to score a run to challenging the outfielders by taking the extra base, Wigginton was loved by Mets fans during his short stay in New York. His best season for New York came in 2003 when he led the team in games played with 156. Wiggy batted .255 with 11 HR, 71 RBI and 73 runs scored. He also struck out 124 times while drawing only 46 bases on balls.
Wigginton’s 2003 season was eerily similar to Francoeur’s season in 2008, a year in which he was briefly sent down to the minors by the Braves. Francoeur hit .239 last season, with the same 11 HR and 71 RBI Wigginton had in 2003, while playing in 155 games. Frenchy scored 70 runs while striking out 111 times and drawing 39 walks. By the way, Francoeur is now 25. How old was Wigginton during his 2003 season? You guessed it – 25.
The fans who loved Wigginton surely weren’t applauding his stats, as they were less than spectacular. They were able to see his grit and determination to help the team win by any means necessary, even if his contributions did not show up in the boxscore. Francoeur can be that same type of player. He’s certainly showed his durability by playing in all 162 games twice in his career. No one is better at throwing out runners trying to take an extra base, as he has more outfield assists than anyone else in baseball since he made his debut in 2005. If he fails to drive in a run while batting, he will go all out to prevent the opposing team from adding a run with his strong and accurate arm.
Francoeur has also made great strides to cut down on his strikeouts. Although he is still a free swinger, he is now making much better contact, as evidenced by his decreasing strikeout totals. Since his first full season in 2006, he has reduced his strikeout totals from 132 to 129 to 111 last season. This year, he has only whiffed a total of 46 times in 304 at-bats. Although he is only hitting .250, the lack of strikeouts suggest that he is more likely to raise his average than lower it. After all, you can’t get a base hit by striking out. You can only raise your average by making contact, which is something Francoeur is certainly making more of this year.
Mets fans, I know some of you loved Ryan Church. I also know some of you are claiming that this is just a trade for the sake of making a trade. You say the Mets could have gotten more than Jeff Francoeur and you might be correct. However, this is what I say. Did any of you really think Ryan Church was going to be a permanent fixture in right field? Francoeur certainly has more of a chance than Church to be more than just a stopgap player in right. Also, the Mets did not have to lose any of their minor league trading chips to acquire Francoeur. If Omar is going to continue his attempt to make this team better before the trade deadline, he’s going to need those minor leaguers in order to get major league talent in return. A potential trade suitor is not going to take Ryan Church for one of their high-salaried players that they’re willing to deal. They will take cheaper minor leaguers that they can control for a longer period of time, players with the potential to help the team for more years than a Ryan Church could. If he so chooses, Omar can now use some of those minor leaguers that weren’t used to acquire Francoeur and turn them into an Alex Rios or a quality starting pitcher.
Before panning this trade, take a look at all the variables in the equation. As with all trades, this could be a bust or a godsend for the Mets. At the very least, give Francoeur a chance. If you’re going to Citi Field tonight, cheer him on when he comes to bat. You never know. He might give you plenty of reasons to cheer for him in the future.