Aug 19, 2012; Anaheim, CA, USA; Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Elliot Johnson (9) is hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the second inning as Los Angeles Angels catcher Bobby Wilson (46) watches at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

Royals Add Another Utility Infielder

Kansas City Royal General Manager Dayton Moore collects a certain type of player like a kid collects baseball cards. Unfortunately, these players’ card equivalents are less like 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle‘s, and more like a bunch of 1991 Score commons. The newest addition to the collection is utility infielder Elliot Johnson. Yesterday, the Tampa Bay Rays sent Johnson to the Royals as the player to be named later in the trade that brought James Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City.

Eliot Johnson is a light hitting utility player who has played plenty of shortstop, third base, second base and some outfield. He has a tiny bit of power and can steal a few bases. In short, he’s a prototypical, dime-a-dozen utility player. He will turn 29 in early March so there is little reason to believe he can develop into more than he is right now. Taking all of this into account, Johnson’s versatility and the fact he is a switch hitter with speed could make him a valuable bench player.

This was an interesting acquisition for the Royals. There are already a number of middle infielder utility types in camp but throwing Johnson into the mix just clouds the situation. Or does it? Johnson has no options left. There would be no reason to accept him as the PTBNL unless the Royals intend for him to make the Opening Day squad. This was the spot seemingly intended for Miguel Tejada. Does this mean the Royals came to their senses and realized they can’t count on a soon to be 39-year old who didn’t play last season and hasn’t provided any real value since 2009? Does this mean Tejada just becomes AAA roster filler, and will he be able to accept that role? The player seemingly left out of the mix is Irving Falu, who has been organizational filler for many years but excited fans last season when he produced when he was given an opportunity in the big leagues. It would have been rewarding for Falu to win the spot as utility player but not if the Royals truly believe the small sample of results in 2012 were not a reflection of his talent. As much as fans could wish Falu makes the team, the Royals cannot afford to roster players because they come with feel good stories.

If Johnson was acquired to fill that back-up infielder position, and it would have been idiotic to accept him as as the PTBNL if he wasn’t going to make the team, this allows the Royals to do something unusual. Assuming the Royals bench would consist of a back-up catcher (George Kottaras?), an outfielder (Jarrod Dyson), and Johnson, the opportunity to carry two second basemen is still available. The Royals could still platoon Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella and have all other positions covered from the bench. It would be an unusual roster make-up but the Royals could give those two second basemen a chance to show, once and for all, what they can be. It is not the worst idea ever.

While acquiring Elliot Johnson isn’t an earth shattering move, it does provide some positive possibilities for the make-up of the Opening Day roster. Johnson is a true utility player with versatility and speed. That’s exactly what you want from at least one of your bench players. The Royals could have done worse.


Tags: Elliot Johnson Kansas City Royals

  • jimfetterolf

    Good piece until the part about carrying two 2nd only basemen plus a UIF. Better would be an extra OF or even an extra catcher who could also play 1st and DH and PH.

  • Joel Wagler

    A key is that Johnson can also serve as the 5th OF. He does have a whole 6 games MLB experience in the outfield. His speed will also allow him to pinch run.

    • Wally Fish

      Falu actually has almost double the OF experience of Johnson as a professional having played 118 games there (92 of them in RF) with 47 of those coming in the last 2 seasons.

      Yost said today that they’re going to give Falu a look out there and it seems pretty clear they’re looking for versatility off their bench.

      With Dyson presumably on the roster as the 4th OF they don’t need Johnson for pinch running duties and Falu isn’t a slouch on the bases in his own right. I think the pinch running concerns are also lessened greatly if Getz wins the 2B job over Gio.

  • Wally Fish

    My expectation is that Johnson won’t make the team. He’s inferior to other options in camp and regardless of how he was acquired, the Royals need to leave Spring Training with their best 25. Especially if they are serious about competing.

    Falu is more than just a nice story. He’s a quality player that deserves a more extended look and a true chance to make the team. He’s far more selective and patient at the place than is Johnson and Falu is actually capable of making consistent contact. Out of a utility/bench player these are key attributes.

    • Joel Wagler

      I would love for Falu to be the guy. I just don’t think the Royals have any confidence in him to be the utility guy. I feel like he did enough to get the shot but why did KC pull in these other guys if they believe in him?

      • Wally Fish

        Most teams load up on back of the roster utility guys for spring training purposes so I wouldn’t read much into that. I agree that they’re not sold on Falu, but I think if he performs in ST the utility job should and probably will be his.

  • jayhwk01

    You could have easily titled this article, “Royals add another futility-er” So frustrating.