To say that the Royals were in need of an upgrade in right field would have been an understatement. After a year and a half of watching Jeff Francoeur be, well, Jeff Francoeur, the Royals sent him away, finally admitting that his 2011 season was truly a fluke. The platoon of David Lough and Justin Maxwell did reasonably well, producing a combined .268/.318/.434 batting line, a contribution that looked even better when compared to the horror that was Francoeur at the plate. Yet, is that contribution enough for a team that is looking to contend for the playoffs in 2014?
Already, the crop of right fielders has thinned. The first domino to fall was Marlon Byrd, who signed a two year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Aside from the pipe dream that is Shin-Soo Choo coming to Kauffman to play right field, that leaves Carlos Beltran, the Player Who Is Best Avoided in Nelson Cruz and Jason Kubel as the possible top options for right field.
Each of these players has their problems. Kubel had a truly disastrous 2013 season, leading to the third year of his contract being declined in favor of a $1million buyout. Cruz is not only a defensive liability, but he was suspended for PEDs and really is not the player his reputation would lead one to believe that he is. Beltran may be the best option, but the Royals are likely to face steep competition in their attempts to bring Beltran back for a reunion.
With that being the case, it could turn out where the Royals right field situation is similar to what it was at the end of last season, with a platoon of Lough and Maxwell manning the position. Both players have their flaws, as Lough does not have the greatest plate discipline and Maxwell having problems on defense. However, the combination of Lough and Maxwell was similar to the production that Kubel put up in 2012, when he produced a .253/.327/.506 batting line. The biggest difference was that Lough and Maxwell combined for ten home runs, while Kubel hit 30 that year. Would it be unreasonable to think that Lough and Maxwell could combine for twenty homers over the course of a full season?
Barring the acquisition of Beltran as a free agent, it may actually behoove the Royals to keep the status quo. Justin Maxwell and David Lough may combine to produce just as well as whatever free agent the Royals could get, allowing them to spend that money to upgrade at second base and to fortify the rotation.
Although it may not be the ideal situation, it certainly would be better than where the Royals were a decade ago, when coming off their first winning season in a decade, they gave a free agent contract to Juan Gonzalez. Lough and Maxwell cannot help but to be better than that.