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Looking For The Next Jeff Francoeur

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No, the title isn't a joke, nor have I changed my stance on the trade since my original frustration. Instead, I think my ability to go from frustration to apathy very quickly has helped me see the trade for what it is: a gamble with incredibly low odds, a somewhat-high price, but a very tangible upside. Another interesting facet of the trade that has emerged since the dust settled is the general acceptance by the fans. Only a few are calling Francoeur a white flag, despite him being so much worse than Church. Maybe most have already given up on the season, but I'd think Francoeur's somewhat-dubious track record as a major league regular gives the illusion of a lateral move. If the Mets had flipped Church for a prospect or two they'd probably be better off, but it would seem much more like a firesale, the end of a season.

That being said, I have been toying around of the idea of the Mets going after more players similar to Jeff Francoeur, mid-20s arbitration types, who have fallen out of favor with their respective organizations. I'm not looking for the next Church/Francoeur trade, but the next, as Christina Kahrl called Frenchy, "science project".

The Mets playoff odds are ~14% according to Baseball Prospectus, and while that's not abandon ship territory, it's only the fourth best odds in the N.L. East. If you check the PECOTA adjusted odds, the Braves have twice the chance of the Mets (even computers laugh at the Church trade). In the interest of feigning hope for the season, I'm not going to recommend any more dramatic downgrades, but instead some players that fit the Francoeur mold and what each team's needs are.

Alex Rios  OF, TOR-  A good hitter and great fielder, Alex Rios is a 5 WAR player, a borderline superstar. I want nothing to do with Vernon Wells and his contract, but as Dave Cameron pointed out, Alex Rios is signed to a favorable extension. If the Jays are unable to trade Halladay and seriously want to trade Rios for little, I'd imagine teams would be lining up at the door. Surely the rumor that the Wells and Rios could be had for nothing meant the team had to take both players on.

Josh Fields 3B, CWS- Josh Fields isn't arb-eligible yet, but otherwise he may as well be called the Jeff Francoeur of baseball players. At age 26, Fields is two years removed from a successful 2007 season when he demonstrated his trademark bad plate discipline (33.5 % K) and great power (.236 ISO). Since then, he's put up an unspectacular line in AAA, when he tried the Sox short patience in 2008, and has floundered at the major league level. His problem is more hacking than OBP-denial, but he's got tremendous power when he does make contact. The White Sox have rushed Gordon Beckham all the way to the majors, mostly in response to Fields' struggles. He's no great shakes at third, but has experience in LF and at 1B. Given a reasonable (re:very low) price of minor league filler or bench players, Fields would be a true project and an interesting stop gap for Delgado.

Delmon Young OF, MIN- Delmon Young is the only regular rightfielder worse than Jeff Francoeur. He doesn't make contact, he doesn't walk, can't hit for power, can't walk. Quoth Cameron:

The current version of Young combines Jeff Francouer’s pitch recognition, Adam Dunn’s contact abilities, and Juan Pierre’s power. Just for good measure, he’s also playing the outfield like Jack Cust. Add it all up, and you have a guy who has been worth -1.3 wins in 125 plate appearances. Prorated over a full season, that’s -6.5 wins.

Still, Young's 23 years old, the age most players break into the majors, and was once considered a generational talent. Every plate appearance the Twins give to Young over Carlos Gomez is an individual disaster. Give the Twins some cash and a C-prospect and throw Delmon in the minors for the rest of the season. If he hasn't figured it out in a year from now, cut him to avoid arbitration. You think the Mets are tanking? Wait until they are Young-Reed-Francoeur OF alignment tanking. Yowza.

Mike Fontenot 2B, CHC-Not really a Frenchy, 29-year-old Fontenot is both talented and not totally on the outs with his team. Still, a .230 BA will likely prevent him from being considered an everyday player, and could potentially be had for a more grissiony replacement, i.e. Alex Cora. I could see a universe in which the Cubs went for that swap, still upset about gritlord Mark DeRosa going to a hated rival. For his part, Mike Fontenot had a .395 wOBA and a 18 UZR/150 last year in limited playing time, netting a 3.1 WAR in less than 300 PA. He's not that good, but he's not this bad, and is tons better than Cora or Castillo at either middle infield position.

Micah Hoffpauir 1B/OF, CHC- Derek Lee's resurgence forced Hoffpauir back to a part-time role, and I would love to have Hoffpauir subing until Delgado is back. He posted 1.145 OPS last year in AAA and plays passable D at first. His .348 projected rest-of-season wOBA is just as good as anything Murphy will do, and with more power upside. He's 29, but not year arbitration eligible, a "AAAA player". If you're having trouble getting off the Val Pascussi train, Hoffpauir could be your new guy.

Joe Koshansy 1B, MIL- At age 27, JoeKo has found himself in an unfortunate set of circumstances, playing in AAA and suffering from a low-BABIP in an organization with several of great hitters with no position. Joe's got .891 OPS in AAA, a good glove at first, and is a good bunter (what's really important). Joe would be a good buy-low and possibly just as productive as a recovering Delgado at first.

Edwin Encarnacion 3B, CIN- The Reds are finally in a penant race and Encarnacion is hitting .170.  He's a consistent .350 wOBA hitter from year-to-year with more power potential. He's a butcher at third, but he can audition for any position he wants on the Mets. The Reds are purportedly looking into Scott Rolen, and possibly dumping Encarnacion. I'd rate this one as very unlikely, but interesting.

Felipe Paulino RHP, HOU- Felipe Paulino, a starter-turned reliever, has great stuff, good peripherals and a huge homerun problem. After a bad ERA as a rookie, Paulino suffered shoulder problems, and has come back to post another bad ERA in the majors. Looking past the ERA, however, he's much improved with 51 K in 55 innings. The Astros are probably close to giving up with him, but he'd be a great rotation candidate in Citi Field. He's 25 and not yet arbitration-elligible. He's basically the "Next Fernando Nieve" or John Maine, back when John Maine was good and unknown.

Garrett Atkins 1B/"3B", COL- Garrett Atkins was a once a 6 WAR player and is now a huge burden on a competitive team. With firstbase open and the season in the toilet, why not? I don't think he's good, but the Rockies are sick of him, and can be non-tendered after the season if he sucks. The Coors-split thing might make him underrated (if his value can get any lower), and his problem has been more plate discipline related than anything else.

Also considered: Scott Kazmir (yup), Aaron Laffey, Andy Marte, Francisco Liriano, Wladimir Balentin, Corey Hart, Chris B. Young, Kevin Kouzmanoff, and Matt Murton.

Besides Young, all these players could feasibly help the team, while simultaneously providing some upside and regular-player potential. They're all buy low-candidates that would, if nothing else, make the season a little more interesting.