It appears that the Philadelphia Phillies will not be returning outfielder Jeff Francoeur for the 2016 season.
A little more than a week ago, in the wake of his signing of free agent outfielder Peter Bourjos, new Phillies general manager Matt Klentak was still keeping open the possibility that the club could return the popular ‘Frenchy’ for the 2016 season. As quoted by Zack Links at mlbtraderumors.com:
“I wouldn’t say the addition of Bourjos takes us out on any player. We’re still going to be open minded and we still have spots on our roster. I don’t think claiming Bourjos and adding him precludes us necessarily.”
Perhaps the simple signing of Bourjos didn’t alone take the Phillies out on Francoeur. But just yesterday, Klentak selected outfielder Tyler Goeddel with the first overall pick in the Rule 5 Draft. If the Phils want to keep Goeddel, it will have to be with a spot on the big league roster for the entire season, unless they work out a deal with his former team, the Tampa Bay Rays.
With Bourjos and Goeddel added to a returning group that already includes incumbent starters Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr, as well as depth players Cody Asche, Darin Ruf, and Darnell Sweeney, all who can swing between the infield and outfield at various spots, there just doesn’t seem to be room for the 32-year old Francoeur.
Francoeur signed with the Phillies as a free agent in November of 2014. Considered a longshot to make the club when spring training opened in Clearwater, the Georgia native and former longtime Atlanta Braves star immediately became a positive influence in the clubhouse, performed well on the field, and earned a spot on the Opening Day roster.
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Over the course of the 2015 season, Francoeur supplied a number of the few and far between bright moments in a generally dismal Phillies campaign. It began almost immediately when, in the 2nd game of the season, his 3-run home run off Rick Porcello provided the winning margin in a 4-2 Phillies victory over the Boston Red Sox.
Less than a week later his solo homer in the top of the 9th off New York Mets closer Jeurys Familia pulled the Phillies within a run in a game they would lose by that margin. On May 4th, Francoeur supplied four hits including an RBI double in the 1st inning that started the Phils scoring, and an RBI double in the top of the 9th that gave them breathing room in a 5-2 win at Atlanta.
On May 13th, he was fairly quiet at the plate, going just 1-4 against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. However, in the bottom of the 9th with the Phillies clinging to a 3-2 lead, the Bucs had the tying run at 3rd with one out. It was here that Francoeur would show off his cannon arm, one that has always been and remains one of the best in the game.
A medium fly ball came to him along the right field line. Frenchy caught it for the 2nd out, and then sent a laser beam throw home to nail the potential tying run at the plate for the game-ending out. The play preserved a Phillies franchise-record Save for closer Jonathan Papelbon, and was easily one of the handful of most memorable for the team in the entire season.
On June 6th, Frenchy crushed a 4th inning grand slam off San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner to get the Phils back in a game they had trailed 6-0, but again the club dropped the contest, this one by a 7-5 margin.
The following day, Francoeur was sent up to pinch-hit for Herrera with two out and two men on base in the bottom of the 7th of a 3-3 game. He delivered a 2-run double deep down the left field line, helping the Phils to a 6-4 win.
On July 17th he was sent up to pinch-hit for Asche with two runners on base and the Phils clinging to a 3-2 lead over the Miami Marlins in the bottom of the 8th inning. Francoeur ripped a 3-run homer off Mike Dunn that clinched a 6-3 win in the first game back after the MLB All-Star break, a win that started the club on its lone hot streak of the season.
He made sure that hot streak continued just two days later, crushing a 2-run walkoff home run off the Marlins’ A.J. Ramos in the bottom of the 9th of a game the Phillies were trailing by a 7-6 score.
On July 24th it was more late-game heroics. Frenchy delivered a 2-run homer in the top of the 10th inning at Wrigley Field off Rafael Soriano, giving the Phillies a 5-3 victory.
His last big game would come on September 27th in Washington, as Francoeur produced three hits, including his 13th and final home run of the season. This one was an 8th inning solo blast off Casey Janssen during a 12-5 Phillies victory.
Overall on the 2015 season, Francoeur hit for a .258/.286/.433 slash line. He had the 13 homers, drove in 45 RBI, and scored 34 runs in 343 plate appearances. Including the big moments, it was far more than anyone expected, and his performance and example were certainly worth the $950k salary that the club paid him for the season.
Rumors are now linking Francoeur with numerous teams, including some contenders such as the Saint Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Texas Rangers, as well as the Milwaukee Brewers and Miami Marlins.
Someone will certainly give Francoeur a shot, and he is sure to again be a positive influence on an MLB team in the 2016 season. For a player who was only here for one season, he is going to be remembered and welcomed fondly by Phillies fans whenever he returns to Citizens Bank Park.