When I was a kid, there was always a player or two on the Royals team that seemed like dead weight (see Jerry Terrell, Rance Mulliniks, Greg Pryor…) He couldn’t hit very well, and he wasn’t good enough to hold a starting position. Yet every few days or so he was in the lineup, filling in for one of my favorite players.
It was explained to me that every team had to have one of these guys – they were called “utility infielders,” and even though you didn’t like seeing them in the lineup, they were necessary. When infielders were injured or needed a rest, you needed a versatile, dependable guy who could play any infield position as a replacement.
I never liked those guys, but I accepted that they were necessary.
So last summer I thought the Royals had a potential utility infielder in Mike Aviles. With Johnny Giavotella, Alcides Escobar and Mike Moustakas looming, Aviles seemed destined for the bench. But Aviles is not just a Punch and Judy hitter. The Royals weren’t exactly surrendering at-bats when he was in the lineup. He played second, short and third, all about equally well (not exactly a ringing endorsement).
So I got angry when the Royals left Aviles in the minors for an extended period last year, leaving themselves vulnerable with no good middle-infield fill-in. I wrote an article stating just this when the Royals recalled Aviles in late July.
But then KC shipped out Aviles in exchange for what looked to be another utility infielder – Yamaico Navarro. Ok, I thought, maybe the Royals are trying to upgrade at this all-important position. They are going after the very best utility man they can find.
So what did they do then? They demoted Navarro, going instead with Chris Getz as their backup infielder late in the season.
I was angry once again. Why were the Royals going against that sage advice I’d heard as a kid? Every team must have a light-hitting, boring backup infielder on their roster!
Still Navarro was just a phone call and a quick drive from Omaha away. Perhaps with some work during the off-season, Navarro would become just what the team needed.
So what did the Royals do last week? They traded Navarro. They did get a versatile infielder in the trade – one who’s never played baseball on the mainland. Diego Goris is 21 and still hasn’t played anywhere but the Dominican Summer League.
So what are the Royals thinking here?
Getz has played a little short and a little third in his career, so perhaps the Royals see him as their utility infielder. I doubt it.
Or perhaps they anticipate Christian Colon to assume the utility role down the road. But that’s probably at least a year away, and Colon is no great shakes just yet.
Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star reported last week that the Royals are actually surveying the landscape for veteran utility infielders. The list included Edgar Renteria (35 years old), Mark DeRosa (36), Carlos Guillen (36), and Orlando Cabrera (37). That just confirms that the Royals recognize the need to fill the role of utility infielder.
But those guys strike me as old and expensive.
As for me, I wish we’d just kept Mike Aviles.