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Francoeur excited to join Royals

Francoeur excited to join Royals

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Royals' search for a right-handed-hitting outfielder with power has led them to Jeff Francoeur.

Francoeur, a free agent, was signed by the Royals on Wednesday at the Winter Meetings to a one-year contract for $2.5 million with performance bonuses that can get him as high as $3 million. There's a mutual option for 2012 at $4 million. Francoeur last played with the Texas Rangers in the World Series.

Manager Ned Yost said that Francoeur will be the Royals' regular right fielder and bat somewhere in the middle of the lineup.

The chance to play every day with the Royals rather than be in a platoon situation elsewhere appealed to Francoeur.

"I do want to play every day," Francoeur said by phone from his Atlanta home. "If you get to know me, I'm not the greatest guy to sit on the bench. I've always got ants in pants wanting to play."

General manager Dayton Moore apparently moved quickly to sign Francoeur, who reportedly was the target of several teams. He and Moore go back a long way, to the time that Francoeur was a first-round choice of the Braves in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, when Moore was Atlanta's director of player personnel.

"Dayton was in my house when I signed my first contract when I was 18, so I've always respected him and the way he's building with young guys," Francoeur said.

Moore obviously is a Francoeur fan.

"In a win or a loss, he's going to give effort, energy, focus, intensity and competitiveness every day," Moore said.

Despite the signing, Moore did not rule out obtaining another right-handed-hitting outfielder in a trade or via free agency.

Francoeur, 26, began last season with the New York Mets and was traded to the Rangers on Aug. 31 for infielder Joaquin Arias, who now is also with the Royals.

In 139 games last season, Francoeur hit .249 with 13 home runs and 65 RBIs. In the postseason with Texas, he batted .125 (3-for-24).

The deal is pending a physical examination, which Francoeur plans to take on Monday in Kansas City. When he steps on the scales at the doctor's office, it should read about 216 pounds.

That's down from the 223 pounds at which the 6-foot-5 Francoeur began last season, and well below what he once carried. In fact, he expects to report to the Royals' camp in Surprise, Ariz., at 210 pounds.

Francoeur had what he considered his best season in 2007 for the Braves, knocking in 105 runs with a .293 average. But his home run production dropped from 29 in '06 to 19, and he decided to do something about it.

"I bulked up to 242 going into spring, and it just never was the same," he said.

Lost was the lithe athletic body that Francoeur carried earlier in his career, and his numbers tumbled after that. But Yost feels Francoeur can regain his earlier production as he re-establishes a more athletic body.

As a coach with Atlanta, Yost saw Francoeur as a young player with the Braves and even before that at Parkview High School in Lilburn, Ga.

"Look, I've been watching this kid since he was in high school," Yost said. "My middle son, Josh, still has bad feelings for Jeff Francoeur, because he singled-handedly demolished him in the state baseball playoffs. The kid hit like three home runs in one game, [including] a grand slam. ... Josh's dream of being a state championship baseball player went out the window with Jeff Francoeur's bat."

Francoeur's arrival means that the left-handed-hitting Mitch Maier, who was on the Royals' depth chart as the right fielder, could be a candidate for center field along with Gregor Blanco and Jarrod Dyson. Alex Gordon is listed as the left fielder.

Just where Francoeur will settle in Kansas City's batting order remains to be seen, but he'll undoubtedly be with Billy Butler, the Royals' other right-handed slugger in a lefty-heavy lineup, in the middle.

"He's not going to be at the top and he's not going to be at the bottom," Yost said. "I'm going to put him somewhere in the lineup where he has an opportunity to produce RBIs."

Yost has no reservations about Francoeur's ability to play well in right field. He's averaged more than 13 assists in his six seasons, and he won a National League Gold Glove in 2007 when he played all 162 games in right field for Atlanta.

"[He is] as good as they get out there -- plus defender, plus arm, plus accuracy," Yost said.

Over his career, Francoeur has shown a tendency for high strikeout and low walk totals, resulting in a .310 on-base percentage.

"It takes a big effort on the player's part to correct it, it takes the discipline at the plate," Yost said.

Playing in spacious Kauffman Stadium gives Francoeur no pause whatsoever.

"Not at all," he said. "After what I was through in Citi Field last year, I think I'll welcome Kauffman. It's a nice-sized park, but Citi Field is 415 [feet] to the right-center gap, so I don't know if you get much bigger than that."

While with the Braves, Francoeur remembered that general manager John Schuerholz, who'd held the same position with the Royals, raved about Kansas City.

"When I've been comfortable in certain places and certain situations, I've tended to play well," Francoeur said. "For me, between knowing Ned here in Atlanta and Kyle [Davies] and some other guys on the team, I think it's going to be a very comfortable place. I know Kansas City is a great place to live. I remember John Schuerholz talking about that for many years -- that was one of his favorite places."

Next year, it'll be Francoeur's summer home.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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