LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The Braves have until noon Tuesday to let Jeff Francoeur know if he’s going to make their opening-day roster, and if the answer is no he’s expected to look for other offers.
Francoeur, 32, is one of the small group of Article XX (B) free agents under baseball’s labor agreement, a major-league free agent on a minor-league contract. That means he must be told of his status five days before the major league season begins.
The provision allows teams to offer a $100,000 retention bonus to those players if they’d like to send them to the minor leagues, but Francoeur has already told the Braves he won’t accept a minor league assignment. He would exercise his right to opt out of his contract and become a free agent.
After the good spring he’s had — .327 (16-for-49, three doubles, one homer, .389 OBP — following his solid season with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2015, and his reputation for being a great teammate and clubhouse leader, there’s a good chance he’d land another major league job.
But there appears to be a good chance the Braves will place him on their opening-day roster.
They will likely decide between Francoeur and versatile veteran Emilio Bonifacio for the last of two backup outfield jobs, with Michael Bourn ($14 million salary) getting the other. Bonifacio, who has a $1.25 million major league contract and has hit .271 (13-for-48) with four extra-base hits, 16 strikeouts and a .314 OBP.
Francoeur had three hits Sunday against the Nationals and went 1-for-3 with an RBI double off the bench Monday night against the Astros.
“The battle continues, but I guess we’re going to have to make a decision here fairly soon,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Francoeur after Monday’s game. “But he’s done well for himself.”
Francoeur, who spent almost an entire season with the Padres’ Triple-A El Paso affiliate in 2014, has said he would retire rather than go back to the minors.