Kansas City Royals right fielder Jeff Francoeur (21) sits on some quick dry bags during a rain delay against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium earlier this season. The Parkview grad was designated for assignment Saturday by the Royals. (Photo: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)
Not surprisingly, no baseball team claimed Jeff Francoeur as he passed through waivers and the former Parkview star was released Friday by the Kansas City Royals.
The Royals made a brief announcement on the team's website and Twitter feed that they requested Unconditional Release Waivers on the 29-year-old outfielder and 2002 Atlanta Braves first-round draft choice. The club's decision was expected since it was unlikely that any team wanted to take on the expense of Francoeur, who is in the second year of a contract that pays him $6.75 million.
Since he was released outright, the Royals are on the hook for the remainder of the contract.
"He's been an incredible teammate and brought a winning attitude every day and made a real positive difference in our community, so he's a winner," Royals general manager Dayton Moore told mlb.com after Francoeur was designated for assignment on June 30. "He'll be fine."
After designating Francoeur for assignment, the Royals had 10 days to trade or release him. Kansas City's trade attempts apparently failed, leaving the him as a free agent at the moment.
Though he was strong in the field as usual — he has 119 career assists — Francoeur was hitting just .208 (28-for-183) with three homers and 13 RBIs this season. His defense and the possibility of platooning at a corner outfield spot against left-handed pitching should offer Francoeur a spot with another team this season, though this free agent deal likely will be closer to the major league minimum of $490,000.
Francoeur was a high school legend at Parkview, his heroics helping the Panthers to back-to-back state championships in both baseball and football his final two seasons. The hometown Atlanta Braves made him a first-round pick in 2002 and he rose to stardom quickly, even gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated. He had 100-RBI seasons in both 2006 and 2007 and hit 29 home runs in 2006.
But offensive struggles in 2008 saw the Braves send him to Class AA Mississippi briefly, then trade him to the New York Mets in 2009. He played for the Mets and Texas Rangers the following season, earning a shot with the Royals in 2011, when he justified the signing by hitting .285 with 20 homers, 87 RBIs, 47 doubles and a career-high 22 stolen bases.
After signing the two-year deal with the Royals, he faded late last season and hit .235 with 16 homers and 49 RBIs.
"Jeff had a great year for us in 2011 and he was solid for us last year, but he had a tough ending," Moore told mlb.com. "He didn't get going for us this year. He had some big hits for us this year, won some ballgames for us."