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Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite: Phillies Sign Jeff Francoeur

The Phillies announced a number of minor league signings. Among them, veteran Jeff Francoeur will receive the most attention (and scorn) as they continue to add veteran outfield depth to hold places until the next generation can contribute.

Francoeur swinging. He does this frequently.
Francoeur swinging. He does this frequently.
Mike Zarrilli

The Phillies announced a number of minor league signings today. As is typical with minor league free agents, they are all players with some name recognition who have failed to stick in the majors due to proven lack of anything resembling the ability expected of everyday players. Most of these players will never see the field for the team signing them, but that, by no means, precludes overreaction and over-analysis of the implications of their signings.

First, the Phillies have officially signed a total of 8 players: C John Hester, INF Andres Blanco, INF/OF Russ Canzler, INF/OF Chase d'Arnaud, OF Brian Bogusevic, OF Jeff Francoeur, OF Darin Mastroianni, and OF Xavier Paul.

Of those names, Jeff Francoeur is by far the most notable in terms of reputation and major league experience. A former top prospect for the Atlanta Braves, ranking #14 in baseball on Baseball America's list following the 2004 season, Frenchy has never consistently produced at even an average level in the major leagues in his 10 year career.

Francoeur is a player that would have received an honorary degree from the Phillies years ago if they were in the business of bestowing such honors. Never one to display patience at the plate, Frenchy has a career line of .262/.305/.417 over almost 5000 MLB plate appearances. His most recent season of above average offensive production according to OPS+ came in 2011 with the Kansas City Royals when he slashed .285/.329/.476. He hasn't made over 200 plate appearances at the major league level since then.

While the free-swinging Frenchman came into the league as a competent defensive outfielder, he hasn't rated positively in that regard since he was with the Braves in 2007, according to FanGraphs' UZR.

What Francoeur and the 7 other Phillies minor league signings bring is major league experience; many of them have seen extensive time at the major league level throughout their careers. If there is a trend to be identified in the Phillies moves so far this offseason, it is that they are filling in around the edges with depth to field something resembling MLB and AAA rosters before their young-ish crop of talent is ready to supplant them. Francoeur has a reputation as a good clubhouse guy, which fits in with this plan.

He also spent some time pitching in the Padres organization last year, where he put up a 3.68 ERA (5K, 4BB) in 7.1 AAA innings. So, there's that.

Between the lack of patience at the plate, over 30 age, clubhouse virtues, and indiscernible defensive value, Francoeur makes an easy target of jokes about the backward-thinking reputation of the Phillies front office. Those jokes, however, are likely misplaced in this instance as the Phillies likely view Frenchy as nothing more than organizational depth to carry the torch as the current core is either traded or suffers injuries over the course of a long, 162-game 2015 season. It's unlikely the Phillies view a player who has made less than 300 ML plate appearances over the last three seasons as anything more than an emergency solution in Philadelphia.

But, forget those 500+ words, lets overreact!