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Mets, Braves Swap Scuffling Outfielders

Jul 10, 2009 – 6:26 PM
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Ed Price

Ed Price %BloggerTitle%

NEW YORK – No deal more clearly defines the "change of scenery" trade than the one the Mets and Braves pulled off Friday.

Being division rivals, separated by just a half-game in the NL East, didn't matter. Each team was tired of its right fielder, and each now has a new one, with Atlanta getting Ryan Church and New York obtaining Jeff Francoeur.

"Right now, where we are, we just wanted to change it up a bit," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said. "We just needed something different."

Atlanta included cash in the deal, apparently the amount that covers the difference in salary over the rest of the season (Church, 30, makes $2.8 million and Francoeur, 25, makes $3.375 million).

Both players are under team control through 2011.

One scout who specializes in the National League called it a win for the Braves, noting that Atlanta seemed unlikely to tender Francoeur a contract after the season, effectively releasing him.

"He's gone backward," the scout told FanHouse. "He's too tight, too stiff. It's going to be a project."

Over the past calendar year, Francoeur has hit .248 with seven homers and 64 RBI in 150 games.

Overall this season, Francoeur is batting .250 with five home runs, 35 RBI and a .282 on-base percentage in 304 at-bats. Church is hitting .280 with two homers and 22 RBI in 232 at-bats.

Minaya said Francoeur's defense (he has one of the best throwing arms in the game), durability and youth are positives. But Minaya, who has long admired Francoeur, admitted his plate discipline needs to improve.

"I do believe because he's 25 years old," Minaya said, "I think he can improve that."

Francoeur has walked in just 4.8 percent of his career plate appearances with a .308 on-base percentage – the lowest ever of any primarily corner outfielder with 2,500 plate appearances.

"We were able to get a right-handed hitter," Minaya said. "We've been a little bit left-handed dominant. ... We think that there's upside because of his age."

The Mets had been under some pressure to make a deal; with stars Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran on the disabled list, they went into Friday's game having lost 10 of 13 to go from a half-game out to 5 1/2 back.

"We are working," Minaya said. "There's a couple of things that we're talking to clubs about. They may be big. They may be minor. ... We're going to continue to try to do things to shake it up a little bit, not just be complacent and say this is it."

The Braves are 11th in the NL in runs scored and OPS against right-handed pitching.

"We like the way he plays the game," Atlanta GM Frank Wren told FanHouse, referring to Church. "We think he will provide us improved run production teamed with Matt Diaz in [right field]."

Atlanta sent Francoeur to the minors for a brief time last year and he was benched earlier this month for three games.

Church seemed out of favor with manager Jerry Manuel, although Church denied it. And he has not been the same offensive player since suffering a concussion May 20, 2008 -- at Atlanta.

"It's a shocker," he said of the trade. "But I think we're both in a good situation.

"I just look at it as a new start."
Filed under: Sports