LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. —It's no surprise — is it? —the Royals filled their need for a right-handed-hitting outfielder by signing Jeff Francoeur, a long-time favorite of general manager Dayton Moore.
Francoeur, 26, reached agreement Wednesday on a one-year deal for a guaranteed $2.5 million that includes performance bonuses capable of adding another $500,000. The contract includes a mutual option of $4 million for 2012.
"For me," Francoeur said, "this was the right situation. I tell people all of the time that Dayton was in my house when I signed my first contract (with Atlanta) when I was 18. I've always respected him, and I like the way he's building with young guys.
"I felt it was a great chance to come there and play every day and get back to where I want to be."
It was the promise of regular duty that prompted Francoeur to pick the Royals over the Phillies, Rockies and several other clubs that pursued him solely as a part-time player.
"I do want to play every day," he said. "I'm not the greatest guy to sit on the bench. I've always got ants in my pants. I want to be out there."
Moore and Yost confirmed Francoeur projects as the club's regular right fielder and believe he can reignite a once-promising career that stalled in recent years.
"There's still ceiling there," Yost said. "This kid still has everything that he needs to be a solid offensive player. It's just a matter of plate discipline and pitch recognition. But he's got all of the tools and the ability to put it together."
Francoeur batted a combined .249 last season in 139 games for the Mets and Rangers. He had 13 homers, 65 RBIs and a .300 on-base percentage. His career totals in 845 games over six seasons: 101 homers, 465 RBIs, a .268 average and .310 OBP.
"His career hasn't been the script that he envisioned," Moore conceded, "but he's been a part of winning, championship teams for his whole life. He's a terrific (defensive) right fielder. He gives us some presence and some power potential from the right side."
The agreement is pending Francoeur's successful completion Monday of a standard physical examination. That means the Royals, for now, retain one vacancy on their 40-man roster, which permits them to select a player, if they choose, today in the Rule 5 Draft.
Moore previously identified the acquisition of a right-handed-hitting outfielder as the club's primary off-season need in order to counter a unit otherwise comprised solely of left-handed hitters.
"We still may look to acquire another outfielder for a platoon-type situation," he said, "but the pressure is off."
Francoeur is at pivotal point in his career and is working this winter to trim his weight in an effort to recapture the athleticism that once made him one of the game's top prospects following his selection by Atlanta in the first round of the 2002 draft.
"Sometimes," he said, "you need a good stern kick in the (backside) for motivation. I had a blast, obviously, in Texas, but when you're only playing against lefties, you realize you've got to work on some stuff to get back to where you want to be."
Francoeur is down to 215 pounds from 223 and plans to be at 210 by spring training. He last weighed 210 in 2007 and says it's no coincidence he produced his finest season: batting .295 with a career-high .338 OBP while playing all 162 games for the Braves.
His performance also included a career-high 105 RBIs and a Gold Glove for defensive excellence. But a drop in homers from 29 to 19 prompted an off-season conditioning routine to add weight.
Francoeur arrived the next spring at 242 pounds - and his production soon skidded into a three-year decline. He now admits "it was just never the same," but it wasn't until he spent much of Texas' postseason run on the bench that he committed to serious change.
"The last three or four weeks," he said, "I been lifting some for my upper body, but I've mainly been doing nothing but sprint work and agility work. My weight is at 216 right now, and I plan on coming to spring training right at 210.
"I want to be athletic again. I want to be able to do the things I could do before. When you're an athlete, some of the other stuff takes care of itself.
"Your bat speed is quicker. You can beat some balls out. You turn a single into a double, and a double into a triple. That's what I want to get back to - being an athlete on the field and doing the things I was able to do (in the past)."
That's the guy the Royals envision - and more. Moore said Francoeur possesses the leadership qualities capable of playing a major role on a roster in transition to a collection of homegrown youngsters.
"We just got a player," Moore said, "who is going to give effort with energy and enthusiasm from the first day until the last day. I feel there's still a lot of upside in Jeff. He's an upgrade for us in a lot of ways."