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Indians Release Francoeur

2014/03/22
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The Indians announced the release of OF Jeff Francoeur this morning. Francoeur had been in camp as a non-roster invitee on a minor league contract. The roster move was somewhat surprising because left-handed hitters Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn, and David Murphy comprise the Indians starting outfield and Francoeur bats right-handed.

In his career, Francoeur has hit .285/.335/.465 against left-handed pitchers, but his performance had fallen off in recent seasons. In 2012 and 2013, he hit just .224/.291/.346 in 278 plate appearances versus left-handers.

Francoeur has a somewhat undeserved reputation as a good fielder, thanks to the solid range and powerful arm that earned him a Gold Glove with the Braves in 2007. His arm remains a powerful weapon, ranking second to his former teammate Alex Gordon in Runs Above Average from 2011-2013. But his range has deteriorated in recent seasons, enough to offset the value of his arm.

Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer tweets that Francoeur’s release means that utilityman Elliot Johnson has made the team. Johnson is a switch-hitter who can play anywhere in the field, but he has batted poorly against pitchers of either handedness in his career. Presumably, Indians manager Terry Francona values Johnson’s speed and defensive versatility over Francoeur’s comparatively stronger bat.

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