In one of those classic “well, what the heck it’s Thursday” trades, NL East rivals the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves swapped right-fielders, with Jeff Francoeur (plus a giant stack of cash–$270,218 to be exact–pinned to his chest) headed to the Big Apple and Ryan Church going to the ATL. Both teams have struggled in a weak division (Atlanta 42-44, New York 40-45) and were looking for something to kick start their lineups (they probably should have given steroids a chance before trying something this desperate). The Mets are in the midst of a free-fall, losing 7 of 10 and falling 6.5 games out of first place while their star players (Delgado, Reyes, Beltran) deal with various injuries and overall ineptitude. Atlanta has been overwhelmingly mediocre all season long and decided that if they wanted to finish above the Nationals, they had to get rid of The Natural fan-favorite Francoeur.
For Franceour, this move signaled rock bottom. He was long regarded as the crown jewel of the Atlanta farm system, bursting onto the scene in 2005 by hitting .300-14 HRs-45 RBIs in only 257 at-bats. He struggled the following season but bounced back in 2007, winning a Gold Glove in right-field in addition to hitting .293 with 105 RBIs. Francoeur then decided that he had accomplished all that was possible in baseball, and regressed to his free-swinging ways last season, hitting only .239 in a year that included a demotion to Double-A and an embarrassing bed-wetting incident. The Braves hoped for some improved plate disclipine from Francoeur in 2009 but at the time of the trade he was hitting a pedestrian .250 with 46 strikeouts against 12 walks. Still only 25, the Mets hope that a change of scenery (has that ever worked before) will get the once talented slugger back on track. At the very least, Francoeur is a good fielder with a plus arm who should help the Mets’ defense in the spacious Citi Field (which would basically make him the outfield version of Rey Ordonez).
Atlanta has a bevy of good outfield prospects, and Francoeur’s continued struggles made him expendable. Church gives the Braves a strong left-handed bat (and a much keener batter eye than Francoeur) who will likely platoon with Charlie Sheen Matt Diaz in right. Church got out to a strong start for the Mets last season before suffering a concussion and struggling with post-concussion syndrome for the rest of the year. He was hitting .280 with 2 HRs and 22 RBIs at the time of the trade and is controlled through 2011.
This move does nothing to change the fact that the Phillies are going to run away with the NL East. For the Braves, they get rid of a headache at the plate and acquire a solid-if-unspectacular replacement. For the Mets, they give up a steady run producer and gamble that Francoeur can live up to his enormous potential in a new setting. Treading water is a good thing to do if you can’t swim, but not if you’re trying to win championships…
Filed under: AL East, Baseball, trades | Tagged: AL East, atlanta braves, Charlie Sheen, citi field, gold glove, jeff francoeur, Matt Diaz, New York Mets, philadelphia phillies, Rey Ordonez, ryan church, sports illustrated, washington nationals |