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.