And with Francoeur making $5 million this year, it is hard to see the Mets accepting that he is a sunk cost when Beltran returns, either by putting Pagan in right or giving Beltran the right field job in the hope that it puts less stress on his knees….
The answer to Francoeur is Pagan/Beltran in those two outfield spots, but there is zero reason to expect that Beltran is going to return healthy. (Not zero reason to hope, but to expect it.) The Mets, unwilling to swallow even Gary Matthews’ remaining salary, seem like poor candidates to do the same with Francoeur.
Howard’s right, you know. The problem of what the Mets should do in the outfield once Carlos Beltran returns isn’t one I’ve tackled here, since it doesn’t seem too worthy of my tackling until its clear that Beltran will return. But if and when that happens, Pagan absolutely must retain a starting spot unless Francoeur has turned his season around in a big, big way.
During the offseason, I wrote that I didn’t agree with sabermetricians arguing that Francoeur’s uptick with the 2009 Mets was merely the product of a reversal of fortune. I still feel that way, but it’s become pretty clear that whatever was happening for Frenchy in the second half of last season has stopped happening, and that he has likely returned to being Jeff Francoeur. Check out Francoeur’s OPS+ lines over the past few years:
2009 (with Braves): 68
2009 (with Mets): 120
One of these things doesn’t belong here, one of these things isn’t the same, etc.
That’s not entirely fair, of course. Isolating just these two and a quarter seasons conveniently ignores the first two and a half seasons of Frenchy’s career, across which he posted a Major League average 100 OPS+.
But even with Francoeur’s strong defense, that’s not really good enough to be a starting corner outfielder in the big leagues. And his line this season, like his line with the Braves in 2008 and 2009, is bad enough to make him a sub-replacement level right fielder. That means a team should be able to find a better player in Triple-A or on the scrap heap. Chris Carter, for example.
It’s still early in 2010, so there’s still hope that whatever magic or mechanical adjustment or attitude change turned Francoeur into a productive player for a half season in 2009 will again do its bidding on the Mets’ right fielder.
That just looks less likely to happen with every passing ofer.
Meanwhile Pagan, with his range in center, speed on the basepaths and reasonable plate discipline, has maintained (or even improved upon) the form that made him one of the Mets’ most valuable — and underrated — position players in 2009.