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The Royals Outfield Conundrum

Dayton Moore had an interview on Wednesday with MLB Network Radio, and he had some very interesting soundbites. Dayton said he wanted two starters in exchange Joakim Soria, and that Aaron Crow would start in 2012. Moore also seemed to indicate that he would be comfortable keeping Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur, or that it would be tough to move either of them. Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio tweeted about what Moore said on air.

Dayton Moore...told us Melky Cabrera is only 26 and they control him..he said it's unlikely he gets moved at the deadline

Dayton Moore said that Francouer wants to stay in KC and the fans and coaching staff want him there too..said it would be tuff to move him

If you take these quotes at face value, it might lead you to believe the Royals outfield might not change this season, or next season as well. While it is possible Dayton is simply trying to build up their worth by talking about how valuable they are to the Royals, he may also be serious about keeping both players. He may be trying to be build up their trade value and is serious about how important they are; they are not necessarily exclusive. Regardless, there certainly seems to be a chance that neither outfielder will switch teams, and that they will both be in the Royals starting lineup in 2012.

If I would have been told before the season that the Royals would be starting Melky and Francoeur in 2012, I would have either blasted Dayton Moore for being unable to identify major-league talent, or I would be mourning the fact that Alex Gordon had a horrendous 2011 season (maybe both). Now, however, it does not seem so unrealistic or horrible. What would you do if you were GM? Breakdown of the four options after the jump

Keep Melky and Francoeur: In this scenario, both players would stay put and presumably be the Royals starting outfielders in 2012. Melky has one more season of arbitration, and Franceour has a mutual option. Jeff has said that he would like to sign a contract extension; the mutual option is only four million dollars, which would be less than Francoeur likely would command in the open market. I would predict that if Francoeur does not get traded, he will sign a contract extension or leave in the offseason. Either way, if neither of them is moved, I will assume they will be two of the Royals starting outfielders next season, with Frenchy being around potentially until 2015. For me, this would be my least favorite option. I don't like the idea of Francoeur signing a contract extension, or the Royals get nothing in return for him if he leaves in the offseason. I would also like to give some playing time to Mitch Maier, Lorenzo Cain, or even David Lough.

Keep Melky, Trade Francoeur: With this option, Francoeur would be traded at the deadline, and Melky would move to rightfield with Cain playing centerfield. I would be ok with this option; I am a bigger believer in Cabrera than Frenchy. It would also clear space for Lorenzo, who is playing well in AAA. Melky could then be moved next deadline if Wil Myers is ready, or let go in the offseason so Myers can play rightfield in the 2013 season

Keep Francoeur, Trade Melky: In this scenario, Melky would leave the Royals at the deadline (or potentially in the offseason) with Cain taking his spot in center. We again assume that the Royals would sign Francoeur to a contract extension, or else he will likely walk in the offseason. While I would like Lorenzocaine to get more playing time, I don't want to sign Francoeur to a contract extension. I'm not sold he can repeat his success in 2012 (or in 2015), and if he signed a contract extension, he would be blocking Myers in right.

Trade Francoeur and Melky: I would also be comfortable with this option; this would have been my favorite option coming into the season, although currently I'm torn between this option and the Keep Melky, Trade Francoeur option. Cain would come up and play right, with Lough or Maier manning rightfield. I think Melky would be a better option in rightfield in 2012 than Lough, and probably would be better than Maier. Would the return for Cabrera outweigh the potential/probable drop in rightfield production in 2012? If teams blow Moore away with trade offers for Melky and Francoeur at the deadline, he would be wise to move both and not worry about it.

Overall, my feelings are apathetic about bring Cabrera back; I don't want Moore to give Melky away because he still has value to the Royals next season, but he should not be a coveted piece either. I would prefer to move Francoeur at the deadline; I am not sure his value will be any higher, and if he is not moved at the deadline he will probably get nothing back for him or sign him to a contract extension. Whatever decision Dayton Moore makes will be revealing, and could have large implications for the Royals future.