To a group of outfielders that already included Alex Gordon, Gregor Blanco, and Mitch Maier, the Royals made the conscious decision to add some people who hold the bat above the right shoulder. They spent a combined $4 million dollars in 2010 on Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera. These are nice additions in the way that they help the outfield appear to have more major league quality players in it. Of course, given the struggles that Francoeur and Cabrera have both had with the bad since 2008, it's hard to see how these players make the Royals better.
Granted, the bar for offensive production from the outfielders was set pretty darn low after the David DeJesus injury and Scott Podsednik trade. The three players listed above combined with Willie Bloomquist to have some absolutely dreadful offensive production out of the outfield positions. Bringing in a hacker like Frenchy and a switch hitter who can struggle from two sides of the plate in Cabrera can't make things worse, really.
In addition, I think if you study the trends of the way small market teams spend their money -- Ben Sheets getting $10 million from the A's in 2009, for example -- there's a significant amount of peer pressure from the teams who are funding this spending to make sure the small market teams spend all the way up to an arbitrary limit. $4 million dollars isn't exactly a lot of money, but I think it's more of a show of good faith to large market teams than a money dump in some bad players.
That doesn't mean the Royals shouldn't have gone out and tried to add some bad players, but if you're the Royals, and you're going to add two players through free agency on good faith to the big league roster, there were playing time limitations on the Royals at a couple of positions: 1B, SS, and a self-regulated limitation at the C position (good for Dayton Moore for rolling with Lucas May and Brayan Pena, I say). Some of the best free agent values on the market were first basemen. I think there are a number of good second basemen who the Royals could get in on, but might not be willing to sacrifice the roster space w/o a potential trade.
It may be an instance of poor roster construction, but I think these signings are justifiable under the idea that there just weren't a lot of good FA outfielders who could have been signed for the price. I think Marcus Thames would have been a better RH platoon option for Alex Gordon. I think Gabe Gross was the best available outfielder, but I suspect the Royals may have been priced out there. I would have signed Reed Johnson instead of Melky Cabrera, personally. After that, Scott Hairston and Fred Lewis, maybe?
It's disappointing because there were probably better players on the open market than Francoeur and Cabrera, and it's also disappointing because the Royals have been highly ineffective with the open market all along. That comes with the territory: those who have a choice to avoid Kansas City probably will. I'd much rather have two guys who want to play for the Royals, even for just a season, than guys who came here because the Royals outbid the market. It seems like Francouer and Cabrera both passed up other options to be Royals because they want to play. I suppose that's a good thing.
Jeff Francoeur can't possibly replace David DeJesus in the outfield. That doesn't mean I feel the DeJesus trade was bad, or wrong, or even premature. It is what it is. For 40% of the cost, Francoeur is going to provide about 40% of the offensive production and about 40% of the defensive production of David DeJesus for the same amount of time. Cabrera is a poor team's 4th outfielder. These are both hubris motivated signings who last did something in 2007 after looking like promising prospects. There's no Scott Podsednik level of production from either of these guys who will add runs to the offense in the process of being a one-year rental. These signings don't do much for the 2011 Royals.
Again, I think they're trying. I don't think they're better today than they were before the winter meetings, but I think because of hubris and because of a fresh start and fresh coaching, I think there's more here to both Francoeur and Cabrera than just wasting money on failed major leaguers. They might not -- probably won't -- amount to anything more than that, but that doesn't mean neither was worth the time or effort in a season that doesn't appear to be going anywhere fast.