The Kansas City Royals made two moves over the weekend which I did not see coming.
First, the Royals brought up second baseman Johnny Giavotella from Omaha. Second, they designated outfielder Jeff Francoeur for assignment.
On the surface, there is really little in common with the transactions. Johnny Go Go’s roster move is designed to plug an offensive hemorrhage at second base (and, yes, you can use whatever meaning you choose for the word “offensive”), while the Francoeur DFA is official management recognition of what Royals fans have realized for two years: the Glorious Francouer Experiment was no longer working.
The juxtaposition of the two careers, however, and the treatment of the two players while in Royal blue is striking.
In short: Francoeur has always been a favorite of General Manager Dayton Moore. Giavotella has not. They have been treated accordingly.
Which explains the Royals effectively ignoring Francoeur’s horrific 2012, trading away his likely replacement in Wil Myers (although, truth be told, the pickups — James Shields and Wade Davis — haven’t been all that bad), leaving David Lough at Triple-A Omaha until recently and waiting roughly 20 games longer than stated before finally pulling the plug on Frenchy’s time in KC (don’t get me started on the George Brett factor. Francoeur was already being shopped when Brett arrived to save the Royals’ day).
Which also explains the sense Gio has never gotten a fair shake at the major league as long as Chris Getz was in the way. Granted, Gio didn’t hit much and didn’t help his cause with his glove the first two times up…
So now, with Getz out of the picture, Elliot Johnson inconsistent and Miguel Tejada limited due to his age, it’s up to Gio to prove the Royals wrong. He has to know this is his last but only true shot with the club. Scuffle like he did last year and there will be no hesitation to drop him. Continue like he did when he returned to the club Sunday (3-for-4), and there still is no guarantee for next year — but at least he makes the Royals brass think about where he fits into the future.
The future is past, though, for Frenchy. In a way, it’s a shame. He worked hard, by all accounts, and took his diminished role well, at least publicly. However, in addition to his woes offensively the past season-plus, he also began losing steps defensively last year to the point where all he has left is his arm. And for me, the halo of “great clubhouse leader” was tarnished significantly over the past offseason when the story leaked out Frenchy pinned his lower RBI totals on DH Billy Butler getting on base ahead of him and effectively being too slow to score. Had nooothing to do with a bad plate approach or poor hitting mechanics.
While Francoeur waits to clear waivers, Johnny Go Go now tries to make good on his shot at the same time the Royals enter a pivotal stretch in their schedule. Three at home with the surprise of the AL Central, Cleveland, starting tonight. Three at home with Oakland. Four on the road at the Yankees. Three at Cleveland. Starting this series, the Royals are 38-41, 4.5 games behind the Indians and 4 behind Detroit. Not only do they need to handle the Tribe, but they also have to do well against a potential division winner in Oakland and a wounded but always dangerous club in the Yanks. Statistically, if you’re not at or above .500 at the All-Star Break, you don’t reach the playoffs, and the Royals have to go 8-5 minimum to get to break-even.
A 5-8 record? Worse than that? Instead of possibly adding a bat, which the Royals may well need, KC is likely selling off pieces. Giavotella would be among the first to go at season’s end, but look also for Ervin Santana and others (Tejada? Lorenzo Cain? Eric Hosmer? Butler?) to be dangled to actual contenders for the stretch run. Should that happen, the heat shifts further from team to management.
For the Kansas City Royals, Johnny Giavotella and Jeff Francoeur aren’t the only guys with careers at a crossroads.