The Kansas City Royals have made their major moves. They've even added some minor ones. But further decisions await Dayton Moore and the rest of the Royals front office at a few positions on the field, and to that end we'd like to enter one name for discussion: Austin Kearns.
Kearns won't exactly be the most exciting name to consider at this point with some quality free agents remaining, but Moore has spent his money this winter already. The Royals will make minor tweaks at this point, and that's where Kearns' value lies. In fact, he's the kind of late roster addition that could help bolster one of the team's remaining weaknesses.
The reason Kearns is a candidate to consider adding to the roster is for one reason only: his ability to hit right-handed pitching. While the journeyman outfielder never lived up to his initial prospect hype coming up through the Reds minor-league system, Kearns has carved out a solid 11 year Major League career largely on his ability to hit RHPs. It's something the Royals could use in 2013 given the current make-up of the roster.
Kearns holds a career line of .259/.352/.431 against right-handed pitching. Those are respectable numbers across the board, and the combined OPS of .783 would serve the Royals well combined with right fielder Jeff Francoeur. Assuming the Royals keep Francoeur, his presence in the line-up against right-handers continues to hinder the line-up. Bringing in an option like Kearns helps give Ned Yost options.
Even last year, Kearns had a .733 OPS against RHPs compared to .589 against left-handed pitchers. The drop-off is that drastic. Yet when you consider that Francoeur hit .229 against RHPs last year (.259/.302/.415 in his career), you can see the immediate need for an upgrade.
Of course, many fans would like to see the Royals trade Francoeur and his bloated contract altogether. If that happens, the Royals could explore other options -- Scott Hairston is a fine bargain as a platoon outfielder, by the way -- but that's not likely. Instead the Royals are likely to hold onto a veteran player that they consider a strong clubhouse presence and team favorite. Given his weakness in the line-up, bringing in a veteran outfielder to platoon would help cover a weakness.