Francoeur 'back home' with Braves on Minors deal

Francoeur 'back home' with Braves on Minors deal

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Jeff Francoeur's journey has evolved much differently than he expected back when he found instant Major League success and established himself as one of the Braves' top players. But the Atlanta native will now have a chance to extend his career back where it all began.

Francoeur's wait on the free-agent market ended Monday when he signed a Minor League deal with the Braves and received an invitation to big league Spring Training. The veteran outfielder is expected to report to ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex later this week.

"We are excited to bring Jeff back home and he will get every opportunity to make our club out of Spring Training," Braves general manager John Coppolella said. "He brings a lot to us in terms of makeup and experience. But we signed him because he had a great year and we think he may be able to help us win in 2016." 

Francoeur's two-run homer

While Francoeur certainly did not want to settle for a Minor League deal after encountering some success with the Phillies last year, he now has a chance to return to a familiar environment. Kelly Johnson is the only current Braves player who was with the team during Frenchy's previous stint.

But Francoeur, who played with the Braves from 2005-09, will still feel a sense of familiarity. Manager Fredi Gonzalez, first base coach Terry Pendleton and pitching coach Roger McDowell were all part of the coaching staff during portions of Francoeur's previous stint with Atlanta.

Francoeur batted .258 with 13 homers and a .718 OPS for the Phillies last year. He hit .264 with a .769 OPS in 202 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers and .248 with a .645 OPS in 141 plate appearances against lefties.

Though it does not appear the Braves have a need for an outfielder, Francoeur could enhance his stock with a strong Spring Training. If he ends up playing at the Minor League level, he would be playing close to his Gwinnett County home with Triple-A Gwinnett.

Francoeur was taken by the hometown Braves in the first round of the 2002 Draft and ascended to the big league level as one of baseball's top overall prospects three years later. He debuted halfway through the 2005 season and helped the Braves win the last of their 14 consecutive division titles that same year. He homered while making his Major League debut at Turner Field on July 7.

A little more than a month into his big league career, Francoeur was referred to as The Natural on a Sports Illustrated cover. He hit 14 homers in 70 games during his rookie season and followed that up with a 29-homer season in 2006. He hit .293 and compiled a career-best .338 on-base percentage while winning his only career Gold Glove Award in '07.

But after enduring a disappointing '08 season, during which he produced a .653 OPS, Francoeur saw his career trend in the wrong direction. He was traded to the Mets midway through the 2009 season and has since played for the Rangers, Royals, Giants, Padres and Phillies.

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