Jeff Francoeur

Is the end here for Jeff Francoeur?

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Maybe someone will pick Jeff Francoeur up for their bench after the Giants designated the 29-year-old outfielder for assignment on Tuesday, but it’s far from a given. His former habit was to hit like gangbusters whenever he joined a new team, but in San Francisco, he came in at .194/.206/.226 with no homers and four RBI in 62 at-bats.

Francoeur has played nine seasons in the majors with a .263/.306/.419 line. That’s not too shabby for a middle infielder, but for a corner outfielder, it’s certainly not getting the job done. In fact, of all the guys to last so long in the bigs, one could say he ranks among the worst corner outfielders of all-time.

By OPS+, here are the worst corner outfielders to amass 4,000 plate appearances:

88 – Don Mueller (4,593 PA from 1948-59)
90 – Shano Collins (7,045 PA from 1910-25)
91 – Jeff Francoeur (4,959 PA from 2005-13)
92 – Cliff Heathcote (4,972 PA from 1918-32)
93 – Glenn Wilson (4,468 PA from 1982-93)
95 – Michael Tucker (4,686 PA from 1995-2006)
96 – Jim Rivera (4,008 PA from 1952-61)
97 – Juan Encarnacion (5,095 PA from 1997-2007)
98 – Johnny Wyrostek (4,785 PA from 1942-54)
98 – Pete Fox (6,169 PA from 1933-45)

Baseball-reference’s WAR, which factors in defense and baserunning, isn’t a whole lot kinder. It rates him as the 14th worst corner outfielder to amass 3,000 PAs and the 6th worst to amass 4,000 PAs. Here’s the list with the 4,000 PA cutoff:

3.6 – Don Mueller (1948-59)
5.6 – Dante Bichette (1988-2001)
6.0 – Al Zarilla (1943-53)
6.4 – Jose Guillen (1997-2010)
6.9 – Jim Rivera (1952-61)
7.4 – Jeff Francoeur (2005-13)
7.6 – George Browne (1901-12)
7.6 – Tommy Griffith (1913-25)
8.0 – Michael Tucker (1995-2006)
8.8 – Juan Encarnacion (1997-2007)

Both the raw stat and WAR rate Mueller as the worst of the corner outfielder. Mueller was actually a two-time All-Star for the Giants in the ’50s. He led the league in hits with 212 in 1954, his age-27 season, but he quickly fell off the table from there and was particularly dreadful in his last two seasons as a regular. Plus, since he never walked and had limited power and speed, he was never all that valuable in the first place.

Francoeur has also had his moments. In fact, he’s been a three-win player three times of his career, according to WAR. Unfortunately, his WAR for his other six seasons is a -2.2. These last two years, he’s at -3.6. His power has deserted him on offense, and he lacks range in the outfield, though he still possesses a very good arm. At this point, there’s nothing to recommend him over a dozen veteran outfielder scattered around Triple-A. He’s going to have a difficult time landing more than a minor league contract this winter, and he might find that his best bet to continue playing is to head to Japan.

Report: Koji Uehara close to signing with the Cubs

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 10:  Koji Uehara #19 of the Boston Red Sox pitches in the eighth inning against the Cleveland Indians during game three of the American League Divison Series at Fenway Park on October 10, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald reports, citing a source as well as Nikkan Sports, that reliever Koji Uehara is close to signing a one-year, $4.5 million deal with the Cubs.

Uehara, 41, finished the 2016 season with a 3.45 ERA and a 63/11 K/BB ratio over 47 innings. He missed some time in the second half with a strained right pectoral muscle. When Uehara returned from the disabled list on September 7, he tossed 11 scoreless innings with 12 strikeouts and two walks through the end of the regular season. So there’s at least some evidence, albeit in a very small sample size, that Uehara has stuff left in the tank.

The Cubs recently acquired closer Wade Davis from the Royals. Uehara would join Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards, Jr., Justin Grimm, and Mike Montgomery in what is once again a very deep bullpen.

MLB implements another player-unfriendly rule, this time targeting draftees

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 28:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred speaks to the media before Game Three of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Jon Morosi of MLB Network and FOX Sports reports that the MLB draft has a new program in which the top-50 pitching prospects are asked to undergo a voluntary pre-draft MRI on their throwing arm. At first glance, it seems reasonable because, hey, pitchers are injury-prone and players sometimes hide injuries. It would feel bad if my favorite team drafted a lemon!

The reality is that this is just another player-unfriendly rule that shifts financial risk away from the owners and onto the players. The players, in this case, are often not wealthy and are about to begin life in the minor leagues where they earn less than $8,000 per year. Signing bonuses help alleviate some of the immediate financial discomfort of minor league life.

The pre-draft MRI is “voluntary” with quotes around it. Choosing not to undergo the MRI will only give prospective teams more reason to be skeptical of one’s durability. It’s a lot like those voluntary workouts in football that aren’t so voluntary due to superior and peer pressure. You don’t show up, you’re lazy, entitled, a bad teammate, etc. In this case, a pitching prospect refuses to undergo the MRI, it’s because he’s hiding an injury.

Ian Anderson was the first pitcher taken off the board in the 2016 draft, going to the Braves at No. 3. He got a $4 million signing bonus. Let’s say this new MRI program had already been instituted and Anderson refused, or something came up that caused the Braves to change their minds. Anderson’s draft stock falls, let’s say to 21 where the Blue Jays took T.J. Zeuch with a $2.175 million signing bonus. Falling 18 spots in this case costs Anderson about $2 million, perhaps more because he loses a lot of negotiating leverage. Maybe he falls further, even to the second round.

In a column for FanGraphs nearly two years ago, Nathaniel Grow showed that, as a percentage of total league revenues, player salaries have been declining since the early 2000’s. In 2002, player salaries made up 56 percent of league revenues. In 2014, it was only 38 percent.

In isolation, the MRI program isn’t a big deal. The injured player loses stock, but another player moves up to take his place and earns a bit more money. As part of the bigger picture, however, this is part of an ongoing trend in which owners abdicate financial risk and push it all onto the players. The new collective bargaining agreement, for example, capped international signings at $5-6 million per team per year. That removes any incentive for overseas stars like Shohei Otani from coming over to play Major League Baseball. If he wanted to anyway, he would make much less money than he otherwise would on an open market. The amateur draft itself is almost entirely risk-avoidant for owners and it’s terrible for the players because they, too, would earn much more on an open market. And let’s not forget how owners have fought tooth-and-nail to keep minor league salaries suppressed.

Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick once paid $2.8 million for the Honus Wagner T-206 baseball card. Let’s not act like these owners can’t afford to shoulder the risk on young pitchers.

EDIT (4:40 PM EST): As I’ve seen others mention it, it’s worth bringing up the Astros/Brady Aiken issue. The Astros took him first in the 2014 draft, but they took issue with his elbow health. The two sides had agreed to a $6.5 million signing bonus, but the Astros wanted to reduce it to $5 million as a result. Aiken didn’t end up signing with the Astros. He underwent Tommy John surgery and was later selected by the Indians 17th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft. He got a $2,513,280 signing bonus.