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Royals, Francoeur ink two-year extension

Royals, Francoeur ink two-year extension

Royals, Francoeur ink two-year extension
KANSAS CITY -- Right fielder Jeff Francoeur said he loved Kansas City, loved the people and, most of all, loved the Royals' chances of becoming a winning team quickly.

That's why on Thursday he signed a two-year extension of his contract through 2013.

"I want to be part of it when this thing turns around and Kansas City starts winning again -- to say I was here," Francoeur said.

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The deal was for a total of $13.5 million over the two years.

"I do want to thank the Glass family, first and foremost, for putting this deal together and giving me the opportunity to stay here," Francoeur said of team ownership.

In his first season with the Royals, Francoeur is batting .277 with 35 doubles -- the fifth most in the Majors -- with 15 home runs, three triples, 66 RBIs and a career-high 19 stolen bases. The strong-armed Francoeur also has 12 outfield assists and tops the Majors with a total of 93 since 2005.

"It's positive for our team going forward," general manager Dayton Moore said. "Jeff's had a very good year and brings a lot of energy and passion and winning attitude to our team. Those character traits certainly fit in our clubhouse, certainly as it pertains to the young players that we currently have and expect to continue to have."

Manager Ned Yost also appreciates Francoeur's contributions off the field as well as on it.

"He's been around and he's very in tune to a team setting," Yost said. "He's as good a team leader as anybody I've ever seen. Terry Pendleton [at Atlanta] was really good but Frenchy's really good at being one of the top guys in the clubhouse. ... You've got to have somebody that's in the trenches with you, to provide not only vocal leadership, but visual leadership -- it's not, 'Don't do as I do, do as I say; it's do as I do.'"

At age 27, Francoeur is one of the veteran players on a team that ranks as the youngest in Major Leagues by a wide margin, at an average of 25 years, 343 days. San Diego is next youngest at 27 years, 210 days.

"We've got a lot of good, young talent here and if you take a look at the lineup tonight, I'm the oldest guy at 27 taking the field," Francoeur said before Thursday night's game against the Red Sox.

Although Francoeur's name came up in July as part of Trade Deadline speculation, he made it clear then to Moore that he wanted to stay in Kansas City. Within the last three or four weeks, talks between his agent, Keith Grunewald, and the Royals heated up and the deal was in place this week. But there was a wait while the Royals signed top Draft pick Bubba Starling and Francoeur passed his physical examinations.

With teams starting to view the right-handed-hitting Francoeur as a possible platoon player, he was determined to prove he was an everyday player. Yost said he decided to give Francoeur until mid-June or so to prove that, and he did.

Francoeur pointed to hitting coach Kevin Seitzer and outfield/running coach Doug Sisson as helping him resurrect his career.

"I've got to give those guys a lot of credit for where I am today, because Seitz offensively has got me in a great place and Siss defensively and basestealing -- if you'd have said I'd have 19 stolen bases right now, I'd have never believed you," Francoeur said. "And I attribute it to me losing 30 pounds in the offseason, and it's made a huge difference. I'm an athlete out there again and able to do the things I want to do."

A free agent after last season, Francoeur signed a one-year contract with the Royals for $2.5 million, with a mutual option for 2012 at $4 million. If he chose, he could have become a free agent.

The Royals' other two outfield regulars -- left fielder Alex Gordon and center fielder Melky Cabrera -- also are having standout seasons, but they still are under club control, and Moore indicated any contract talks with either would be held off until the offseason.

"I knew this was chance for me to have a bounce-back year," Francoeur said. "Dayton signed Melky to come here and a lot of people were wondering when Gordo was going to have a good year, and between the three of us, I think we've done a great job of pushing each other this year."

And, yes, Francoeur expects to be in that outfield next week at Toronto despite letting his U.S. passport expire.

"It happened by my stupidity," he said. "Ever since Spring Training, they've been on me every day about getting my passport. And I said, 'I've got it and it's no big deal.' I brought it in on Tuesday and realized it expired on June 27."

Instead of playing golf and leaving on the Royals' charter to Canada on Monday, Francoeur will fly to Chicago, where he expects to renew his passport.

"It's a perfect off-day," he said.

Maybe not, but he sees his contract renewal as a perfect deal for him.

"I enjoy this kind of life, this kind of lifestyle. My wife [Catie] and I love it and I love the community and I look forward to being a part of this," he said.

When can Kansas City look forward to that turnaround?

"Soon," he said. "We said this year the goal was to start competing, start getting guys. Do we wish were 22 games under .500? Of course not. But do I feel when we go out and play other teams that we're 22 games under .500? I don't. If you ask other managers and a lot of the players, they'll agree that our team has come a long way from last year."

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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