The KC Royals just signed a utility man, but why?

Kansas City acquired Garrett Hampson Wednesday.
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

As the day grew late Wednesday and the Internet began to sizzle with speculation that the Chiefs are also considering leaving the Truman Sports Complex, the KC Royals busied themselves making news of a different sort. A little less than two weeks after acquiring reliever Nick Anderson and then starter Kyle Wright from Atlanta, and signing reliever Luis Cessa to a minor league deal, the club added Garrett Hampson, a veteran big league utility man.

Hampson is as defensively versatile as former Royal Whit Merrifield; he's done everything on the field during his six-year major league career except pitch, catch, and don a first baseman's mitt.

Nevertheless, count yourself among a tiny minority if you saw this deal, which Royals beat writer Anne Rogers reports is for one season at $2 million, coming.

The Royals, after all, aren't suffering from a shortage of versatile players. Nick Loftin played three infield positions during his short but impressive 2023 major league debut and all of them in the minors, and can play in the outfield corners. Maikel Garcia can move around the infield well. And the club boasts several players capable of playing anywhere in the outfield.

For what purpose have the Royals signed Garrett Hampson?

The question, one many must be asking tonight, is legitimate. Versatility is a prized commodity, but one with which Kansas City is well-stocked. KC general manager J.J. Picollo certainly didn't need to go out and add more.

Could it be the Royals aren't completely sold on Michael Massey at second base, are considering handing the position over to Loftin, and will need another utility-type if Loftin assumes an everyday position? Or maybe Picollo doesn't feel his team is sufficiently versatile and wanted more. He might even be considering Hampson for an everyday, single-position role.

Or perhaps Picollo, sizing up so far as more creative and transactional than Dayton Moore was late in his long tenure with the Royals, has something else in mind — maybe he envisions other, bigger deals he believes are doable only if he includes other, better Royals and needs a backup like Hampson.

All those scenarios are possible, some more so than others. Picollo appears open to many things, but whether something more than simply taking on more depth is on his mind, or actually occurring, remains to be seen. Chances are, though, that Picollo simply found a versatile player he likes and signed him; if so, the Hampson move immediately becomes another in the long line of unspectacular, incremental transactions Royals fans know so well.

What does Garrett Hampson bring to the Royals?

Besides his versatility, Hampson just put in his best big league season, hitting .276 with an excellent .349 OBP in 98 games for Miami in his first campaign away from the Rockies, with whom he broke in during the 2018 campaign. His career .241/.305/.371 line isn't great, but his 57 steals suggest he can be disruptive when he gets on base. And he's pretty decent defensively wherever he plays.

Look for manager Matt Quatraro to give Hampson plenty of playing time when spring training opens in February.

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