KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 20: Jeff Francoeur #21 of the Kansas City Royals rounds the bases after hitting a home run during the game against the Cleveland Indians on April 20, 2011 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
There's no denying the fact that the Braves have struggled mightily this year when it comes to creating runs and getting on base. They're in the bottom third of the league in nearly every offensive category and not a single Brave has amassed a whole win yet. Alas, MLB Trade Rumors linked a quote today from Jon Heyman who contemplated that the Braves are in search of offense -- I don't blame them.
Following an off-season in which the Braves re-loaded by acquiring Dan Uggla for Omar Infante and Michael Dunn and upgraded at 1B by allowing rookie Freddie Freeman the job, things have obviously not gone as expected thus far. The Bravos are 27th in baseball in wRC+, 25th in wOBA, and 23rd in WAR. Meanwhile, the defense hasn't been ever so spectacular as well as the Braves are 24th in baseball in UZR. Arguably the worst Braves players on both sides of the ball so far have been Martin Prado, Dan Uggla, and Nate McLouth.
In 120 plate appearances thus far, Prado's cost the Braves more than he's helped them. He's been worth -0.1 wins so far while costing the Braves -0.8 runs with the glove. Offensively, he's put up an OPS+ of 79 (where the league average is 100) to go along with a wOBA of .288. McLouth on the other hand has been quite similar if not worse. He's cost the Braves -3.5 runs in the field and like Prado, McLouth has been worth -0.2 wins. Unlike Prado, Nate McLouth has posted a BABIP of .324 against Prado's .260. That can be attributed to Prado's potential bad luck or McLouth's good luck. Meaning, Nate McLouth is actually lucky to have posted a .286 wOBA and a wRC+ of 77 in 2011, believe it or not. It would seem as though the two outfield spots in which McLouth and Prado occupy are in need of the most help. However, Dan Uggla has been by far the worst Brave as he's currently wOBA'ing .259 with a wRC+ of 58 -- Holy smokes. Of course, Uggla isn't going to be replaced as he just signed five-year pact worth over $50MM.
On the other side of the coin, the Royals back in the off-season inked Jeff Francoeur to a $2.5MM contract which at the time drew many laughs and doubters. It was a fantastic sign. Knowing Dayton Moore, many expected another Royals deal to go completely sour but in my opinion there was absolutely no way that would happen. If Jeff Francoeur played absolutely miserable, the Royals would decline his option at the end of the year and he would have cost them $2.5MM -- Big deal. If he played well, the Royals would not only get an above average outfielder, but they'd be able to trade him mid-season for a semi-decent package at the very least should the Royals be out of contention. Assuming the Royals regress, Jeff Francoeur makes perfect sense as for a team in July looking to upgrade an offense that's been siting nearly dead last for months. No, he isn't going to bring the Royals back a Julio Teheran or a Randall Delgado but the Royals can expect something even slightly significant in return. Someone along the lines of a B or B- prospect would be ideal, according to a trustworthy source. Another source said he couldn't even get a B- if you look at what he cost the Mets to acquire him in 2009 -- almost nothing.
In 100 plate appearances so far Francoeur's slugging .593 with a .416 wOBA accompanied by a 169 wRC+. He's been worth 1.2 wins and while we've been accustomed to seeing Frenchy play well in the field, this might be his best defensive season yet. Both his arm and range are above average as is his defense as a whole (UZR of 1.1 in the OF). Updated ZiPS projects a .282/.326/.455 line in 619 plate appearances which is what one could expect from Francoeur even before the year started.
While we all know Dayton's love for his old roots, that be the Braves system and franchise, trading Francoeur to the Braves mid-season would not only be a Dayton-esque move but he fits the Braves need a great deal. Dayton, being the former GM of the Braves makes deals within his comfort zone, as we've seen in the past. What the Braves need at this point is a right handed hitting outfielder who will hit the occasional home run but stay healthy and play consistent baseball, which is what Francoeur provides. Aside from Dan Uggla, the Braves right-handed power has been abysmal. The Bravos are hitting .206 and wOBA'ing .266 off of lefties this year -- Francoeur only has a .607 wOBA and a 303 wRC+ off of lefties in '11 -- ehh, nothing too shabby.
In recent memory, comparable outfielders such as Ryan Ludwick or even Rick Ankiel brought back a fair return while having less than stellar seasons. Definitely less stellar than the one Francoeur's having even if he regresses (which he probably will) as the July 31st deadline approaches. The Royals would be best suited trading him sooner rather than later while teams are still fathoming over his hot start. It would be strange to see Francoeur back in Braves colors. However, re-acquiring him couldn't hurt as he, even when/if he regresses, will be more productive than Prado or McLouth even if he's in a position that he hasn't played since last year, left field.