Mets Trade Ryan Church for Jeff Francoeur

The Mets have traded Ryan Church to the Atlanta Braves for Jeff Francoeur, according to GM Omar Minaya.

My initial, gut reaction is, I’m going to miss Church, who never really got a true opportunity to play every day under Jerry Manuel, but in Francoeur, the Mets get a younger, more physically talented outfielder, who plays the game the right way — much like Church does. My next gut reaction is, “whoa, why were the Braves so eager to rid themselves of a young, highly talented, local boy like Francoeur? What do they know that they’re not telling us?”

From all accounts, though Francoeur was the golden boy in Atlanta as recently as a year and a half ago, something changed when GM Frank Wren gained full control of the club’s personnel. Some kind of rift between the two occurred that was never healed, and Wren has been looking to move Francoeur for months (most recently he offered him to the Marlins for Cody Ross).

Similarly, something occurred in Jerry Manuel’s head that caused him to hate Ryan Church. We don’t know what, we don’t know why, and the two can deny it until their deathbeds, but the writing was on the wall: Manuel didn’t like Church, and the organization as a whole never saw Church as an everyday player. Going to Atlanta and Bobby Cox will be an outstanding change for Church. I believe very strongly that Church, under Cox and playing “the Braves Way”, can and will blossom into a good, not great, complementary everyday rightfielder.

Meantime, Francoeur’s change in scenery could prove equally fruitious (damn I hope so!). Clearly, he strikes out way too much, and doesn’t take pitches, and that will drive us nuts. But he also has the raw talent to be a star. Whether he realizes that potential is anyone’s guess — and part of his problem is he’s as stubborn as a mule when it comes to changing his approach. If he doesn’t ever “get” the idea of plate discipline, he’ll be the offensive version of Oliver Perez — an eternal, frustrating enigma.

What I do like about Francoeur is he appears to have a strong personality, and maybe he can be the guy who turns the tide in the clubhouse. He plays hard, and if he’s performing well, he could be an influencer / leader. We’ll see.

Interesting to note that Minaya mentioned — about 18 times — that Francoeur is “an everyday player”. I wonder if the front office is sending the message to Jerry Manuel that Francoeur WILL BE penciled into the lineup every single day, and enough with the inane mixing and matching.

Minaya also pointed out that Francoeur is “better suited to Citi Field” because, “…although Ryan Church was a very good fielder, players around the league will tell you that Jeff Francoeur covers a lot of ground …” and, “…he has a very strong arm.” Wait, Omar … didn’t you just describe Ryan Church? Doesn’t Church cover a lot of ground, and have a very strong arm? Meh.

So much for Jeremy Reed’s chance to get some playing time — with Francoeur coming in and Angel Pagan off the DL, Reed goes back to being Gary Sheffield’s late-inning caddy.

Also strange, during the press conference, was Minaya’s comment that “guys who pull the ball are able to take advantage of that left field wall” in Citi Field, and Francoeur fits that definition of pull hitter. Really? Where’s the evidence? Because two or three opponents jerked hanging curveballs into the left field seats? Because Sheffield planted one or two out there? Until the “Soot Monster” is lowered by 30 feet and brought in another 30, righties are going to have a tough time sending one over the fence (or otherwise “using it to their advantage”).

I hope this deal works out well for Francoeur and the Mets; I know it’s going to work out for Church and the Braves. Occasional MetsToday contributor John Fitzgerald suggests that “Frenchy” is the next Mike Marshall (the bigfooted first baseman, not the wacko pitcher). It’s an intriguing comparison.


Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. nwaldrop July 10, 2009 at 8:28 pm
    Chuch is a solid player whose average stays pretty consistent throughout the year. Franceour is a rollercoaster ride who can get very hot and very, very cold. I think that this is a good move for this rag tag group of Mets. If the big guns were still in the picture I doubt that this trade would’ve been made, it’s a bigger gamble than Minaya usually makes but for this team, at this time I think it’s the right decision.
  2. gary s July 10, 2009 at 8:35 pm
    good move, now let’s trade reyes and beltran, tell delgado to take a hike and try and find some other players that will actually play hard and know how to win games.than trade maine and putz for prospects, give redding and hernandez their releases and bring up some arms from the minors.time to bust up these chokers.with all the injuries this is the perfect time to do it.
  3. mic July 10, 2009 at 9:22 pm
    no kudos 2 me?

    The Mets shopping window IS open!!!

  4. mic July 10, 2009 at 9:37 pm
    As part of my post announcing a sale in brooklyn, I originally wrote a reminder:

    1. In 1996/7 The Mets traded for Mel Rojas (the STELLAR closer who would save a hundred games…)along with turk wendell and Brian McCrae for Lance Johnson and mark clark. The trade was (ala Minaya) nixed by Joe MCilvaine, but he was fired (by?) and SP installed and the trade went thru…the theory was the 3 add-ins would PROPEL the Mets to the playoffs instead the CHI cubs into contention from nowhere.

    My point is that a smart quick rebuild could quickly change the attitude of the franchise:

    PS I think francouer gets repackaged. Minaya has no young players to trade outside of Niese and Fmart. He hasceased an oppurtunity to get a former top ten prospect.

    Interesting that the Braves season last yr was much like the Mets this yr with Hudson, Smoltz, Glavine Chip etc out…Gonzalez sucked and so did Andruw…The Mets stand to get a top 15 draft pick this yr which might not be bad.

  5. joejanish July 10, 2009 at 10:22 pm
    Mic – I don’t believe this trade identifies the Mets as “sellers”, so no, no kudos to you (nothing personal). It reeks of desperation — i.e., the Benson / Kazmir / Zambrano deals of 2004. This is Omar Minaya rolling the dice that Francoeur can somehow find his way back to being a future All-Star, and hit homeruns. In other words, the Mets believe this was them acting as “buyers”.

    And had the players stayed with their respective teams, both were likely to be non-tendered this winter, as neither organization valued what they had. So really it was an exchange of each other’s perceived junk.

  6. Nobody Beats the Wiz July 10, 2009 at 10:26 pm
    mic, I highly doubt he gets repackaged this year. He’s proven himself at the major league level, as Church has, but he has sooo much more upside than Church (and a stronger arm too).
  7. wally July 10, 2009 at 10:33 pm
    How does Francoeur have more upside? The guy hasn’t been able to hit the broad side of a barn nor take a pitch in three years.

    And his arm is only slightly better than Church’s … and Church has much better range. For example would you ever expect to see Francoeur in centerfield?

    If Mets fans are antsy about David Wright striking out all the time, I can’t wait to see what they think of Francoeur.

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  9. Taylor July 10, 2009 at 11:40 pm
    I think Church is a better player right now. Francouer is only 25. Pretty surprising. This is his 4th season. Unfortunately he seems to be getting worse not better. Francouer’s career OBP .308. Church’s .345. This year Francouer’s OBP .282 vs Church .332. 50pts difference. But what really matters is what both will do from here on. I don’t like the deal but it may work out in our favor.
  10. mr.bmc July 11, 2009 at 12:59 am
    Terrible trade for the Mets.
  11. sincekindergarten July 11, 2009 at 6:28 am
    I think that we got hosed in the trade, too. But, let’s remember that there were rumors that after Church was scratched from a lineup a few weeks ago for “nausea,” a few of the vets didn’t take too kindly to that. Francoeur plays what, and average of 152 games a year? So, he’s not going to ask for any “sick days,” and he’s going to give whatever he has in the tank that night. So, maybe this trade was about clubhouse chemistry as much as anything else.

    Still don’t like it.

  12. TheDZA July 11, 2009 at 7:54 am
    Every time Omar says anything about Citi Field I honestly believe that the first time he knew what it looked like was the first home game. Was he involved at all in how it was going to play?!
    If they don’t bring in the fences in the off season I am going to do it.
    The trade seems a tat-for-tat style trade – not in terms of numbers – but just 2 guys who incurred the wrath of the management for some reason, and unless either Church or Francoeur writes a book we’ll probably never know why. I feel bad for Church, he played hard. I’m sure they both needed a change of scenery.
    Now all we need is to trade Jerry for some manager who has pissed off the front office – Hmmm…I got Kenny Williams on speed dial…
  13. isuzudude July 11, 2009 at 10:49 am
    I think I agree most with mic (surprise, surprise!) and DZA.

    Mic mentioned that he believes Franceour will be repackaged at a later time, and though I think the Mets give him every opportunity to latch on as a mainstay over the rest of this season, if his production remains as stagnant as it was in Atlanta, I don’t think for a second that Omar won’t be accepting to deals for Franceour this winter. And even if Frenchy hits, say, .240 with just a handful of homers over the rest of the year, his trade value will still be higher than that of Church’s because he’s 5 years younger and has shown the ability to stay healthy over the long haul. There’s been many rumors swirling that the Red Sox like Franceour, so perhaps there’s a megadeal in the works for this offseason that may involve the likes of Jose Reyes, Jacoby Ellsbury, or Clay Buchholz with Franceour involved. Or even if not, at this point in their careers Church is a good enough talent to be viewed as a role player who would fetch a somewhat decent prospect back if the Mets were to become sellers, while I think Franceour’s full potential may have not fully revealed itself, which may prompt teams to give up more in a deal for him.

    But like DZA says, as of right now, this is a “change of scenery” deal that is basically a swap of identical players, age aside. Both are arbitration eligible for 2 more years before becoming free agents. Both are above average in the field. Both are prone to the strikeout. Both have shown the ability, however inconsistent, to hit for power. And both had somewhat worn out their welcomes in their previous homes. The Braves grew tired of Franceour’s inability to adapt and wanted to go in a new direction, and Church gives them the type of player who won’t leave them with a gaping hole in RF. Meantime, the Mets are desperate for offense, especially power, and Church has shown pretty much no ability to hit for as much power as a RF should provide ever since coming back from his concussion last year. And though his OBP and batting average are likely to be better than Franceour’s, those are not the type of stats that should stand out for a #5 or #6 hitter. SLG% and HRs are what the Mets are looking for, and Franceour projects to be better in those departments.

    I really have no strong feeling either way about the trade, quite yet. It’s a calculated if risky gamble for Omar, and the true test may come down the road when/if he can spin Franceour off for something better than what he could have gotten in a deal for Church. Still, as if stands, the Milledge trade of last offseason has now netted the Mets a 25 year old reclamation project instead of a 30 year old journeyman, which will look brilliant if Franceour manages to find his 2006 form.

    I think the worst part of the deal will be suffering through Gary Cohen referring to Fran”core” as Fran”cur”. Maybe Gary can finally talk to Jeff one on one and clear the air once and for all over the proper pronunciation of his last name. If not, I’ll start referring to Gary Co”in” as Gary Co”hen”.

  14. joejanish July 11, 2009 at 11:24 am
    Bottom line is this: Church was never going to be an everyday player under this management. Trading him away for someone who is only 25 and twice drove in 100 runs on the surface is a great PR move — it makes the Mets look like they’re trying and also building for the future. If Francoeur doesn’t pan out, the Mets will blame the player for being stubborn, and won’t get criticized because though Church should do decently in Atlanta, he won’t be a star. So no big loss.

    However, the idea that Francoeur will be repackaged is, to me, unrealistic. If he doesn’t play well, his value will sink further, and teams will wait for him to be non-tendered rather than deal for him. If he does play well, the Mets will hold on to him, because of his age and the fact they don’t have any young outfielders ready to contribute, beyond F-Mart (who in my mind won’t be ready until at least 2011).

    My worst fear is that Francoeur will hit about .260, with an OBP about .261, and hit into 30 DPs, but drive 16-20 balls over the fence — and then the “power” will justify keeping him around.

    If we’re lucky, Francoeur will be as good as Derek Bell.

  15. Taylor July 11, 2009 at 1:52 pm
    Yeah, the repackaging thing won’t work unless he’s actually performing well. It doesn’t matter how young a guy is if noone thinks he’s very good.
  16. isuzudude July 11, 2009 at 4:56 pm
    Funny, but didn’t Omar just do that very same thing with Aaron Heilman this winter?
  17. joejanish July 11, 2009 at 5:39 pm
    Poor comparison, ‘dude, since anyone who wasn’t a Mets fan valued Aaron Heilman. Scott Schoeneweis would be a better one.

    Though, yeah, I could definitely see Minaya trade Francoeur, Angel Pagan, Sean Green, Jon Niese, Nick Evans, Dan Murphy, Brad Holt, Ike Davis, and six other minor leaguers to the Red Sox for Rocco Baldelli and Nick Green.

  18. isuzudude July 12, 2009 at 9:19 am
    Yeah, Joe, because that’s exactly the type of trade I’m envisioning also.

    And I don’t see how Schoeneweis is a better comparison since he is old and washed up while Francoeur is just 25 with a solid chance of having his best years in front of him. That’s why I went with an example like Heilman, who’s young but had a couple of turbulent seasons.

  19. mic July 12, 2009 at 9:59 am
    if 2 yrs ago you traded Millz for Frenchie then Omar would have been lauded as a baseball god…nevermind getting a starting catcher to boot.