Mets answered Braves prayers with Church
When I get to the ballpark today, I’m going to have to do a lot of explaining to Chipper Jones.
Somewhere over the course of the past couple weeks or even within the past 24 hours, I’m pretty sure that I bet his ranch on the belief that the Braves wouldn’t be able to trade Jeff Francoeur for anything more than a mid-level prospect.
Given what I’d gathered from the Braves over the previous few weeks, they shared this same thought up until Wednesday, when Mets general manager Omar Minaya provided an offer that immediately made him a candidate for a playoff share if the Braves turn things around and compete in this year’s postseason.
Seriously when I first heard that the Braves had acquired Ryan Church in exchange for Francoeur, I think I squinted like Arnold Drummond used to do before uttering, “What you talking about Willis?”
I had essentially resigned myself to the belief that December would arrive and the Braves would gain nothing in return when they non-tendered Francoeur.
But now instead of going through this season’s second half waiting for a man once recognized as “Their Future” to regain the promise he’d shown in The Past, they’ve actually traded him for somebody who will strengthen their right field position.
Like most every other Major League outfielder, Church doesn’t possess Francoeur’s arm. But now that we have that out of the way, it’s pretty hard to find any other aspect of the game where Francoeur proves to be superior to Church.
What concerns me the most about Church is the fact that he’s hit just .264 with five homers and a .686 OPS in the 115 games that he’s played since being concussed by Yunel Escobar’s knee last year.
But those numbers look pretty similar to the ones produced by Francoeur, who has hit .259 with six homers and a .661 OPS over the course of his past 115 games.
Just two days ago, we were baffled by Bobby Cox’s decision to once again start Francoeur instead of Matt Diaz. Now with the left-handed Church, the Braves have the perfect platoon compliment for Diaz in right field.
Dating back to the beginning of the 2007 season, Church has hit .291 with 25 homers and an .831 OPS against right-handed pitchers. In 272 at-bats against left-handers during this span, he has hit .232 with five homers and a .640 OPS.
With Diaz hitting .365 and a .935 OPS against left-handed pitchers this year, the Braves don’t have to worry about the fact that Church struggles against southpaws.
While Church’s numbers against lefties might be alarming, they don’t look much different than the ones compiled on an everyday basis this year by Francoeur, who in his past 272 at-bats has hit .246 with four homers and a .614 OPS.
The Mets didn’t do Church any favors by quickly rushing him back to the lineup on two separate occasions after he suffered the concussion last year and they didn’t provide any of their hitters an advantage with the dimensions that are present at Citi Field.
During the 32 games he’s played at Citi Field this year, Church has hit .216 with a .576 OPS. In 35 road games, he has hit .326 with an .804 OPS.
Throw in the fact that Mets manager Jerry Manuel didn’t seem to like him and it was obvious that it was in Church’s best interests to escape New York.
And there was no doubt that it was time for Francoeur to realize a change of scenery. While he’s still the same likeable kid that we’ve known since he debuted in 2005, the past two years have proven that he’s not the quality player some might have envisioned when he hit .276 with 53 homers and a .777 OPS through the first 321`games of his career.
In the 310 games that have followed, he has hit .256, with 25 homers and a .685 OPS.
With the pressures of living up to the expectations of being the hometown hero that he was during his high school days, Francoeur constantly tried to change his approach and in the process, he seemingly lost his identity.
Whether Francoeur is able to turn things around in New York remains to be seen. But there’s no doubt the Braves made themselves better yesterday when they were miraculously found somebody willing to provide the piece that significantly upgrades their right field position.