J.R. House Signs with Royals

This wouldn't get its own post on a bigger news day, but I still thought this was interesting. The Royals have signed former Pirate prospect J.R. House to a minor league deal. The Royals are both open-minded enough and bad enough at catcher that House, who has 60 career big-league at bats spread over five seasons, could finally get a real look in the majors.

"We signed him to catch," said Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo. "We thought J.R. was a good fit. He can also play first, he's a right-handed hitter and with Kila [Ka'aihue] in Triple-A, we could have a right-left combination at first base as well."

Picollo said House has had shoulder problems in the past.

"I know the knock on him has been his defense isn't real strong, but it's a serviceable job that he does and, hopefully, his shoulder will hold up and it'll be fine," Picollo said. "He's an offensive-type guy and that's an attraction with him."

Platooning House with Ka'aihue in the minors would be a really dumb idea (Ka'aihue is a pretty interesting hitter), but letting House share time behind the plate with Brayan Pena wouldn't. The Royals will likely enter 2009 with the same catchers (John Buck and Miguel Olivo) who hit .236/.295/.383 for them last year. Both have their charms--they both hit for above-average power for catchers and play decent defense--but neither can get on base. Buck, in particular, has to be disappointing to Royals fans: since his debut in 2004, he hasn't gotten better, and his career high in batting average is still just .245. In the past two years, he's batted .222 and .224. If he hits any worse than that, he's a liability, and everyone notices when a guy's batting average is the problem. It's easy to imagine a situation in which Buck and Olivo, who are both old enough that a decline isn't out of the question, perform a bit worse and the Royals get sick of both of them. If that happens, House is a good bet to be an offensive upgrade.

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