KANSAS CITY, MO – Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur knows exactly what’s coming his way next spring: A young stud named Wil Myers, the Royals’ top outfield prospect and arguably baseball’s top prospect.
And Francoeur, coming off a terrible year (.236, 13 homers, 41 RBIs), knows he will be in for a fight for his job.
That doesn’t seem to bother him.
“No, not at all,” he told FOXSportsKansasCity.com. “I feel like you’re always having to compete and be ready to compete (for your job). Obviously, Wil has had a great year. He’s going to have a great career – no doubt in my mind. But as far as my thinking goes, I just have to be prepared to be the right fielder next year, until I’m told otherwise, and be a part of this team.”
Francoeur, who is 28 and once hit 48 homers and drove in 208 runs in a two-year span, isn’t offended, either, that he suddenly will have to compete with a rookie just to keep his job.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “It isn’t offensive. When I was a rookie, some older guys had to compete with me. That’s baseball. You always have young players – good young players – coming up, and then you have older guys who can do some things, and you have them going against each other.
“I know who Wil Myers is. I have a lot of respect for Wil. He’s a great young kid. I enjoyed getting to know him last spring. But until I hear otherwise, I’ll be ready to go next spring. It’d be different for me if I hadn’t had the year I had (in 2011) or the other glimpses I’ve had in my career. I know what I can do and I know what I have to do to get back to that.”
Francoeur, of course, could be traded this off-season as he heads into the final year of a two-year, $13.5 million extension.
“But I haven’t heard anything like that,” he said. “All I’ve heard is they want me back and want me ready to be the right fielder.”
It’s possible, though, that Myers could win the job next spring and the Royals then try to make Francoeur the team’s fourth outfielder – that would require a lot of pride for Francoeur to swallow. Obviously, though, he would have few alternatives.
“That’s up to them.,” he said. “That’s not something I think about. I’m planning on coming in next year and playing right field until I hear otherwise.
“For me, I would think if it came to that I would end up somewhere else anyway. I don’t think you’d have a fourth outfielder (with my salary). But that’s up to them. Everything I’ve been told is they want me back and ready to play and have a good year.”
Would Francoeur accept the role as a fourth outfielder at this point in his career?
“I don’t even think about that.,” he said. “That’s too far down the road. I will say, that in this game, those things always have a way of working themselves out. I’ve been part of teams, like the Atlanta Braves, when I kind of took over for Brian Jordan. It was late in his career. They kept him around but later he ended up retiring.
“I’m not exactly ready to retire but eventually you end up competing with younger guys to keep your job. That’s the nature of the game.”
Francoeur knows, too, there’s always a possibility he could be dealt – just like almost any other Royal could be dealt – this off-season.
“Everyone knows we need some starting pitching,” he said. “So there are probably some guys in this (clubhouse) that won’t be here next year. We don’t know who will be here. When you see the guys that get traded in this league, like an Adrian Gonzalez, you realize that no one is really untouchable. Everyone has a price tag.”
In the meantime, Francoeur is anxious to keep tinkering with his swing.
“I’ve made some adjustments the last few weeks that have me excited going into next year,” he said. “I kind of got in a rut in June and July and just never recovered from it.
“Being able to stand back a little bit these last few weeks has been good for me. I’ve been able to make adjustments and look at my swing and my swing path, and make some corrections. It’s made a difference I think, though the numbers haven’t shown it that much.
“One thing I’m going to do different this off-season is I’m going to start right away in November working on my swing. I haven’t done that before. I’m really going to try to get this swing down and perfect it so when spring comes around it’ll be second nature to me. I want to be ready.”