Yesterday, the Mets traded Ryan Church to the Braves for Jeff Francoeur. This trade caught me off-guard for a couple of reasons. First of all, the Mets and Braves being NLeast rivals don't like each other and it seems odd that they would be trading partners at any-time let alone July. Second, both of these teams are in the purgatory of not sure whether they will be contenders or are they going to fade mode as both teams have been hanging around .500 but still somewhat realistic post-season hopes and this trade makes it unclear whether these teams are in buy or sell mode.
Also, at a macro-level glance it isn't overly obvious who the winner and who the loser in this trade is going to be. Pretty much, two outfielders having bad seasons are switching places in some experiment to see if change of scenery will benefit the involved parties.
After taking a closer look...the Braves are more likely to be the winners in this trade and here's why:
If nothing else, the Braves got rid of a player (Francoeur) who's basically turned into an offensive liability. With Francoeur, his career has been marred by lots of unfulfilled promise and potential. His best year was his rookie year(2005) when he had a line of .300/.336/.549 126 OPS+. Unfortunately for both the Braves and Francoeur, he has not even come close to repeating his promising start. It seems that once the league figured him out (i.e. he'll swing at just about anything) his performance has gotten progressively worse. Despite having a decent amount of power (he hit 29 Homers in '06)...he has been a below average hitter for the duration of his career 89 OPS+(translation: he's been 11% worse than a league average hitter for his career)
Even that does not tell the whole story, the trends from the last couple years indicate that he's getting worse, not better (which tends to happen at 35, not 25). After a decent 2007.....he has followed that up with a 72 OPS+ and a trip to the minors in '08 and a 68 OPS+ in '09.....out of players averaging 3.1 plate appearances per team game....that ranks him 88th.....out of 94..he's hitting so bad that he's less useful than less talented players with no pop in their bat (i.e. David Eckstein) and even players who are hitting below the mendoza line (i.e. Chris Young)
playing in the pitching-friendly CitiBank Park in New York......i don't see his performance going any better......(on the plus side none of the other non-injured mets players are hitting very well...so he should fit in well in the clubhouse)
While the player he got traded for Ryan Church is not a hall of famer or even has the raw talent of Francoeur his entire body of work indicates that he'll at least be serviceable. While he doesn't have the raw talent and power of Francoeur, he has also distinguished himself from Francoeur by being fairly consistent and being better (albeit slightly) than average (108 OPS+ career). While he's having his worst year so far (excluding 2004 when he only had 71 plate appearances) some of the other metrics from this year indicate that unlike Francoeur, he has not fallen off the cliff.
While he is older, Church is still only 30. Also, where Francoeur's batting and on-base average indicate that Francoeur is getting worse, Church is at least hitting for contact this season (even if his power is non-existent)
He at least draws some walks (not many but a lot when compared to Francoeur). Also, his batting average is in-line with a typical season for him (.280). While he's been a disappointment this year, the indicators point to the Braves getting the better end in the trade.
Pretty much, the Braves will get average performance with Ryan Church while the Mets are getting one of the leagues worst hitters in Jeff Francoeur.