No matter how much the majority of fans despise it, the Kansas City Royals are set at heading into 2013 with Jeff Francoeur starting in right field. The fan disdain for Frenchy has reached the point there is even a new twitter account (@FrancoeurFacts) that mentions just how historically overvalued Francoeur has been during his major league career. In half a week, the account already has nearly 200 followers. That means by Christmas, the twitter account may be approaching Francoeur's batting average last season (.235).
It has been reported the Royals will likely try to bring someone in who can spell Francoeur and ultimately push him next season. Outfielders Willy Taveras and Xavier Nady were both signed to minor league contracts. While each has extensive major league experience, neither figure to be involved in the every day plans of the major league roster.
Looking at the MLB Trade Rumors free agent tracker, there are currently 11 players listed that could play right field. Nick Swisher is one, and automatically tossed out from discussion because of the contract he will earn on the free agent market. So what about the Royals. Well they "may" have roughly $1-2 million to spend this year on a low cost free agent to add major league depth. Let's take a look-
Jeff Baker - Primarily a second basemen, Baker provides a utility option for the squad, but as someone who posted a -1.1 WAR in 2012, he isn't to be considered a serious option.
Endy Chavez - Many may forget, but Chavez cut his teeth with the Royals as a rookie all the way back in 2001, but he will soon be 35 and has seen his range decrease sharply since 2009.
Mark DeRosa - DeRosa is another swiss army knife player, who can fill in at many positions, however with him being 38 next season, the Royals would be smart to avoid an aging outfielder.
Ben Francisco - Francisco has bounced around a bit since being a 5th round draft choice of the Cleveland Indians in 2002. Essentially his hitting is similar to Frenchy, with just a modestly higher on base percentage. He has posted negative WAR each of the past two seasons, is older than Frenchy, and worse defensively. Pass.
Kosuke Fukudome - Soon to be 36, pass.
Scott Hairston - Hairston can provide a little pop, as last year he hit 20 home runs in just 298 at-bats for the New York Mets, but he also strikes out a lot. As evidence he has struck out in 23.1% of career major league at-bats, compared to just 19.4% for Francoeur. His range isn't great, but he did post a 1.5 WAR last season due mostly to his power ability. Each of the last two seasons he has earned $1.1 million.
Ryan Raburn - Much like Kelly, Raburn struggled with the Tigers last season, posting arguably his worst season in the big leagues. Statistically he has a career line very similar to Frenchy (.256/.311/.430 to .266/.310/.426). Pass.
Cody Ross - Ross was the hero for the San Francisco Giants in 2010 during their post season run. He turned that into a one year free agent contract with the Boston Red Sox. All he did was hit 22 home runs with 81 RBI. The soon-to-be 32-year old has a solid 10.6 WAR over the course of a nine year big league career. He saw a rebound in his outfield play last season, that hadn't been as good since he was with the Florida Marlins. While he may be aging, I hope the Royals are keeping tabs with his agent to see how expensive the price would cost.
Ryan Sweeney - Sweeney, 27, has age on his side. With a respectable .280/.338/.378 line, Sweeney's downfall offensively has been just 14 career home runs. Sweeney is arguably above average defensively, and combined with the bat would be a good look for the Royals. The local kid (Iowa native) could probably be signed somewhere between $1-2 million.