Wren takes a gamble on Francoeur trade

The Braves Show's Bill Shanks looks at the trade of Jeff Francoeur for Ryan Church.

Jeff Francoeur's departure from the Atlanta Braves was inevitable. If it hadn't happened Friday, it was going to happen this winter when the Braves were certain to non-tender him, instead of heading to arbitration where Francoeur would have undoubtedly gotten another raise.

But the coarse of action general manager Frank Wren took is a gamble. He traded Francoeur to the arch-rival in the division, the New York Mets.

Obviously, Wren would have preferred to not trade Francoeur or anyone else inside the division. The last time it happened, John Schuerholz dealt Kevin Millwood to Philadelphia. The whole baseball world knew Millwood was probably going to get non-tendered, since it was obvious the Braves did not want to take him to arbitration, and the Phillies were the only team that stepped up with an offer.

So Friday's trade with the Mets was obviously a last resort. It shows the shaky market for Francoeur, and that teams knew Francoeur would probably be let go at some point. But even if there is a one percent chance Francoeur turns things around this season, did you really want it to happen with your biggest rival?

Francoeur needs a change of scenery. He needs help with his swing, to at least become a decent major league hitter. Terry Pendleton did not help him, and maybe another voice will do the trick. And when Francoeur went outside of the organization for help, that showed how desperate he was, and at the same time upset the organization.

I still believe Francoeur has a chance to be a decent major leaguer. Will he ever hit 29 home runs again? I'm not sure, and I sure wouldn't bet on it right now. But I think it had gotten to the point where he just needed to get out of Atlanta. The pressure of being the ‘golden boy' was too much, and his need to fix his game far outweighed being the local hero.

Now maybe Francoeur can forget about all that stuff and just go play baseball. Again, I'm not saying he's going to be a star all of a sudden, but he's now going to have his shot to get on track, and I just hate that he's going to be doing it for the Mets.

Ryan Church is just like Francoeur, in that he was probably on track to be non-tendered by the Mets after this season. So like Francoeur, he'll have a half a season to prove to the Braves he can be a productive part of this team.

But history shows Church is probably nothing more than a platoon player, and he'll undoubtedly join Matt Diaz in a right field platoon. Will that be better, and provide more production, than what Francoeur was doing?

Here's what Church has done in his career against right-handed pitchers and lefties:

Against right-handed pitchers:
2009: .310 (57-184)
2008: .282 (60-213)
2007: .287 (101-352)
2006: .279 (41-147)
2005: .277 (66-238)
2004: .176 (9-51)
TOTAL: .282 (334-1185)

Against left-handed pitchers:
2009: .167 (8--48)
2008: .264 (28-106)
2007: .229 (27-118)
2006: .265 (13-49)
2005: .367 (11-30)
2004: .167 (2-12)
TOTAL: .245 (89-363)

We all know Diaz has done better in his career against lefties than right-handers. Here are his numbers:

Against left-handed pitchers:
2009: .365 (27-74)
2008: .319 (23-72)
2007: .356 (67-188)
2006: .295 (43-146)
2005: .370 (20-54)
2004: .267 (4-15)
2003: .000 (0-3)
TOTAL: .333 (184-552)

Against right-handed pitchers:
2009: .247 (20-81)
2008: .159 (10-63)
2007: .318 (54-170)
2006: .358 (54-151)
2005: .143 (5-35)
2004: .000 (0-6)
2003: .167 (1-6)
TOTAL: .281 (144-512)

So can this combination work? Well, we'll see. It looks, on paper, to be an interesting mix of two players who could be somewhat productive. Will it be enough to make the Braves lineup better in the second half of the season? Frank Wren is banking on it.

Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on WFSM Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, Georgia and The Braves Show Talk Show. Shanks writes a weekly baseball column for The Macon Telegraph and is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. You can email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com.

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