Jay Bruce Rumors

How Reasonable Are Jeff Francoeur’s Demands?

In a move that has amused those who follow the New York Mets closely, Jeff Francoeur has gone public with his demands to be traded following New York's decision to platoon him with young outfielder Fernando Martinez.

Despite a season line of .241/.294/.385, Francoeur apparently believes a major league team would play him regularly at a position, right field, that averages production of .271/.344/.447. Indeed, Francoeur's line is well below the MLB average at second base (.266/.331/.393).

But we have yet to see how Francoeur's demand for a trade stands up to history. It isn't easy to find comparable performance among right fielders in recent years, and it's even harder to find any who were traded after performing as poorly as Francoeur.

Since 2000, just 31 of the 165 right fielders to amass at least 300 plate appearances posted an OPS+ below 100. Of those 31, only four checked in lower than Francoeur's 2010 OPS+ mark of 82: Richard Hidalgo's 2005 (81), Jeromy Burnitz's 2002 (80), Austin Kearns' 2008 (67) and Jeff Francoeur's own 2008 (72).

Kearns followed his 2008 with a similarly poor 2009 before the Nationals let him walk after last season. Burnitz followed 2002 with a half-season of a 139 OPS+ for the 2003 Mets, earning a trade to Los Angeles for Kole Strayhorn, Jose Diaz and Victor Diaz. Hidalgo never played in the majors again, and Francoeur followed his 2008 with a half-season of 68 OPS+ hitting in 2009, earning a trade to the Mets for Ryan Church.

In other words Jeff Francoeur is the only one from that group to be traded for anything at all. Incidentally, four of the 31 player seasons in right field below 100 OPS+ are from Francoeur. Only three others are on the list more than once: Juan Encarnacion (three times), Alex Rios (twice), Hidalgo (twice) and Burnitz (twice).

Encarnacion is an instructive comparison. His career OPS+ of 97 is better than, but similar to, Francoeur's 91. Encarnacion had additional value because he lacked a platoon split (amazingly, his OPS against both lefties and righties was .758) and had the ability to play center field.

In the middle of an 84 OPS+ season in 2004 at age 28, a year after he posted a 97 OPS+, the Marlins acquired Encarnacion as part of a six-player deal from the Dodgers. He went on to start 46 of Florida's remaining 58 games. His salary ($3.6MM) was roughly equivalent to the $5MM Francoeur earns in 2010.

So there is precedent. It happened one other time.

Among those under 100 OPS+ in right field, Alex Rios had a 96 OPS+ last year when the White Sox took him from the Blue Jays and agreed to pay his entire salary (at $61MM, many times as much as remains on Francoeur's deal). But Rios had three seasons of 120, 122 and 112 OPS+ in 2006-2008 under his belt, success Francoeur hasn't seen since his half-season debut in 2005.

Overwhelmingly, the players performing as poorly as Francoeur, or even demonstrably better, are simply let go, often never to surface again. Trot Nixon's 96 OPS+ in 2006 represented his last season as a regular player. So did Danny Bautista's 85 in 2004 and Derek Bell's 98 in 2000. Jose Guillen's 89 in 2000 got him sent back to the minor leagues by Tampa Bay, then released.

There's also that pesky question: who would Francoeur replace in another team's regular lineup? Of the 20 right fielders in MLB who have played more than half their games in right field this year, Francoeur ranks dead last in OPS+ with 82. The four closest to him? Jay Bruce (96), Ben Zobrist (98), Hunter Pence (102) and Ichiro Suzuki (107). It is safe to say Francoeur won't be replacing any of those players. He'd make a decent platoon partner with Bruce, but… right. Platooning led Francoeur to demand a trade in the first place.

In short, the answer to the title of this piece is: not reasonable at all. Not reasonable in light of his 2010 performance, not reasonable in terms of other right fielders, not reasonable comparatively through recent history.


Super Two Cutoff Less Than Expected

The next Super Two cutoff will require fewer days of service time than usual, MLBTR has learned.  Last year's Super Two cutoff was at two years and 139 days of service time.  In previous years, the cutoff was never less than two years and 130 days.  However, MLBTR has confirmed with two different team sources that the 2010 cutoff will be two years and most likely 123-125 days.  Service time projections may change over the next three months, but the cutoff is likely to be in that range.

The abnormal cutoff is described by one source as an anomaly.  But since the cutoff is percentage-based, the reduced service time needed for Super Two in 2010 may be the result of the recent trend in teams holding back MLB-ready prospects until late May or early June.  Perhaps once Super Two-based service time manipulation became widespread, it lost its effectiveness.

The top beneficiary of the reduced Super Two requirement is Reds right fielder Jay Bruce.  After this season Bruce will have two years and 125 days, and MLBTR has confirmed he'll be the Super Two with the least amount of service time.  The Reds delayed his MLB debut until May 27th back in 2008, but he's still going to arbitration four times – starting after this season.  Instead of earning $450K in 2011, he'll get millions.  Diamondbacks second baseman Tony Abreu is another winner, at two years and 127 days after the season.  Abreu can credit agent Scott Boras for fighting for an extra 30 days service time with last year's grievance.  Chase Headley, at two years and 123 days after the season, will be the player with the most service time to miss Super Two status.

Looking ahead, a similar early Super Two cutoff after the 2011 season could affect a player like Matt Wieters, who could be at two years and 129 days.  However, the collective bargaining agreement expires on December 11th, 2011, and the Super Two process figures to be one issue on the table.


Reds Report: Volquez, Bruce, Gomes

To put it mildly, this has been a rough year for Reds fans.  Edinson Volquez had the Cincinnati faithful buzzing after posting a 3.21 ERA with 9.5 K/9 in his first full season in 2008.  After logging just nine starts in the 2009 campaign, Volquez needed surgery to repair damage in his right elbow.  The Reds faded fast as their depleted staff wasn't getting much of a lift from their sagging offense.  Injuries to Joey Votto and Edwin Encarnacion (prior to being dealt to Toronto) certainly didn't do them any favors.

However, if the team's recent performance is any indication of what lies ahead, Reds fans might have something to cheer about in 2010.  Dusty Baker's squad has gone 19-11 since September 1st, thanks in part to stronger pitching (3.39 team ERA) and the return of Jay Bruce, who missed two months with a broken wrist.

Buster Olney, Baseball Prospectus and the ESPN Insider staff compiled a glance at this past season and what to expect next year in Cincy.  An ESPN Insider account is needed to read the article, but here are the brass tacks for those without:

  • It's no secret that the Reds don't have a top-flight budget.  They opened this season with a payroll of $73MM and owner Bob Castellini isn't going to "go all Steinbrenner" and tack-on much more.
  • Further exacerbating their financial woes are their pricey commitments to Bronson Arroyo, Francisco Cordero, Aaron Harang and Scott Rolen.  Combined, these four players are owed $46.5 million next season.
  • Olney says that considering their lack of flexibility this offseason, Homer Bailey might be their best chance for improvement as he recorded a 2.41 ERA in September.  The velocity that made Bailey such a highly-coveted prospect has returned, with his fastball being clocked at an average of 94.5 MPH this year.  This is a big step-up from his previous big league work and could spell an even bigger jump in 2010.
  • Baseball Prospectus says that their "acceptable" rate of 4.5 runs allowed per game is due in part to their much-improved defense.  It will be interesting to see if defensive-minded yet weak-hitting shortstop Paul Janish will be the Reds' starter next season.  Manager Dusty Baker said on Friday that a "definitive decision" hasn't been made yet.
  • Jay Jaffe of Baseball Prospectus notes that the combined efforts of all Reds batting in the top two lineup spots resulted in a slash line of .245/.301/.354.  When Willy Taveras hit the DL in August, Dusty Baker put rookie Drew Stubbs and the aforementioned Janish at the top of the order.  The team has gone 27-15 since then, but Jaffe attributes most of the credit for that to the improved performance of the pitching staff.
  • The "Rumor Central" portion of the piece encourages Reds fans that are anxious to see the team acquire a big bat to consider what the offense is capable of if they are healthy.  Injury-free seasons from Bruce and Votto should give Cincinnati a major boost.
  • The report says to expect the Reds to tender Jonny Gomes an offer as he is arbitration-eligible.  This should come as no surprise as Gomes has belted 20 HRs in 311 plate appearances while posting .266/.338/.540.
  • Jaffe says that Jocketty could deal Arroyo or Harang to give the team room to make a mid-level signing this winter.  He adds, "…It's difficult to envision this team breaking out of the middle of the pack without keen vision and bold steps."


Reds Rumors: Janish, Volquez, Bruce

It has been an eventful day for the Reds, according to MLB.com's Mark Sheldon, and not just because they let go of pitching coach Dick Pole. Other Cincinnati notes from Sheldon:

  • When asked if Paul Janish will be the Reds' starting shortstop in 2010, manager Dusty Baker said that he had yet to "come up with a definitive decision." GM Walt Jocketty indicated that surrounding Janish with more dangerous bats would help justify keeping his glove in the lineup. The 26-year-old shortstop has a +17.8 UZR/150 in 2009, but has hit just .215/.297/.308 in over 250 plate appearances.
  • Edinson Volquez is pleased with his progress recovering from Tommy John surgery. Cincinnati expects him back around the All-Star break next season.
  • Jay Bruce no longer plans to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic. He has been on a tear since coming off the disabled list on September 14, hitting .316/.422/.684, though he says the hot streak isn't a major factor in his decision. He should be healthy and ready to produce a stronger campaign in 2010.

Odds And Ends: Nats, Bruce, Padres, Halladay

Congrats to All-Star Game starters Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum. What a matchup. Here are some more links to look through…

  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports says the Nationals "will remain an embarrassment" unless they give Mike Rizzo and Stan Kasten more power.
  • Jay Bruce will miss 6-8 weeks, according to Brian Kollars of the Dayton Daily News, but the young outfielder didn't suffer any ligament or tendon damage in his right wrist. 
  • One talent evaluator told Tom Krasovic that it will be five years before the Padres are good again, so Krasovic creates a blueprint for the team.
  • Some of his suggestions: Make the most of every dollar, go after high upside pitching, find out how much Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell would bring in a trade.
  • WEEI.com's Alex Speier reports that Roy Halladay does not have a list of teams he would accept trades to. Last week Joe McDonald of the Providence Journal reported that Halladay had such a list, but it is not the case.

Odds & Ends: Bruce, Ozzie, Indians

Another round of links for those still hanging around on Saturday evening…

  • Reds outfielder Jay Bruce broke his right wrist sliding for a ball tonight, and is heading back to Cincinnati to be examined according to MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. The Reds were looking to add a bat before the injury, so it stands to reason that they'd ramp up those efforts now.
  • White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said he doesn't "think we’re going to give up three or four players, key players, for the future, just to rent a player for year," according to Mark Gonzales of The Chicago Tribune. Ozzie then admitted that GM Kenny Williams is the one calling the shots when it comes to trades.
  • Paul Hoynes of The Cleveland Plain Dealer rounds up the signing bonuses for the Indians second through tenth round draft picks. First rounder Alex White remains unsigned.

Reds, Jay Bruce, Agree to One-Year Deal

CBSSports.com reports that the Reds have agreed to a one-year deal with outfielder Jay Bruce. Reliever Jared Burton and nine other players were signed to one-year deals as well. The team announced the deals on Saturday.

Fifteen players remain to be signed by the Reds.


More Jocketty Talk On The Reds

C. Trent Rosecrans of TheLotD.com also talked with Cincinnati Reds general manager Walt Jocketty today. Here are some conversation highlights:

  • The Reds are still talking to Jerry Hairston Jr. to play left field. “We’re still trying to get Hairston,” Jocketty told Rosecrans. “We’ll have a different look on our club, but we still have guys like (Joey) Votto, (Jay) Bruce, (Brandon) Phillips, (Edwin) Encarnacion and even (Ramon) Hernandez with power.”
  • Jocketty hasn’t spoken with Pat Burrell in awhile. They are holding back on that one right now.
  • Health remains a serious issue with Rocco Baldelli, Jocketty said.
  • The Reds have been in discussion with the New York Yankees about their extra outfielders, but no deals are close.
  • No Barry Bonds; no Sammy Sosa.

Odds and Ends: Burrell, Braves, Red Sox

Links for Friday night…


Jocketty Names Five Untouchable Reds

Bob Hunter of the Columbus Dispatch relays a Walt Jocketty radio show appearance.  Jocketty reportedly named five untouchable Reds players: Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto, and Edwin Encarnacion.  Hunter is surprised to see Encarnacion labeled off-limits.  The 25 year-old third baseman has a career line of .268/.344/.450 in 396 games.  With several .900+ OPS months on his resume, EE has shown flashes of star potential offensively.

Veterans Francisco Cordero, Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, and Brandon Phillips apparently did not make the list.  Only Arroyo has been mentioned in trade rumors this year; the rest seem unlikely to go anywhere.  But it should be noted that Jocketty wasn’t with the organization when the Cordero, Harang, and Arroyo contracts were signed and might be more willing to move them.