KANSAS CITY, Mo. – When the Royals signed Miguel Tejada to a minor-league deal last New Year’s Eve, they knew they wouldn’t be getting the Most Valuable Player from the 2002 season, or the guy who drove in 150 runs for Baltimore in 2004, or the guy who routinely turned in 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons in his youth.
But the Royals are hoping that Tejada can be more than a serviceable utility infielder and, just as important, a valuable presence in a clubhouse still filled with young players uncertain about how to win at the major-league level.
“Hopefully, what are young guys will see in Miguel is his day-to-day preparation,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore told FOXSportsKansasCity.com. “He’s a guy who comes to the park every day and prepares to play and prepares to win.
“He’s also a guy with great enthusiasm and energy. You hope that rubs off on everyone.”
Tejada, 38, simply wants to play in the majors again. He last played in the big leagues with San Francisco in 2011, and spent part of last season in Baltimore’s minor-league system before asking for his release.
Tejada went home to the Dominican Republic last summer, dropped 15 pounds and recommitted himself in hopes of landing another chance at the big leagues. He opened eyes in winter ball with his play in the field and at the plate.
“The biggest concern was whether or not he could catch up to the fastball at his age,” Moore said. “And our scouts witnessed that he can. You know, those pitchers in winter ball down in the Dominican throw very hard. Really hard. Those are some big-league fastballs. And he had no issue with those.”
The Royals therefore offered him a $1.1 million deal if he makes the club, which most likely would be to back up shortstop Alcides Escobar and whomever wins the second-base job between Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella.
“He’s still got good enough range,” Moore said. “He’s in good shape.
“He will be competing for a spot. He’s been playing very well in winter ball and that’s what caught our scouts’ attention. He still has a passion to play and wants to contribute in any way he can.”
Tejada’s signing even brings up the notion that he could be in the mix for the second-base job, though Moore said that’s not why they signed him.
“Well, you don’t ever want to put limitations on a player,” Moore said. “Anything can happen. But we didn’t sign him to be an everyday player. But then again, you never know. We’ll just see what happens.”
Tejada will be competing with Irving Falu, Brandon Wood and possibly prospect Christian Colon for the utility spot. Wood, a former top prospect of the Angels, was signed in November.
Falu, Wood and Colon may get the early jump on Tejada this spring because Tejada has committed to play in the World Baseball Classic for the Dominican. That means he may not get to the Royals’ camp until mid-March.
Moore doesn’t see that as a problem.
“That’s fine because he’ll be playing (in the WBC) and he’ll be in good shape when he gets to us,” Moore said. “We all know what he can do. And our scouts have seen him enough to know what he can bring to the table.”
Tejada simply welcomes another shot at the majors.
“I’m going to try to help this team and their younger players,” Tejada told The Associated Press. “I believe I can be valuable for Kansas City in different facets. They haven’t told me what specific role they have in mind for me, but what is important is that I’m healthy and I know that I can help.”
The Royals are hoping Tejada will have a similar impact on their position players as newcomer James Shields, also known for his leadership qualities, will have on the pitching staff.
Tejada’s former teammate with the Astros, Lance Berkman, once said of Tejada: “You don’t have time for me to tell you everything I like about him. He’s a great teammate and a great guy.”
Tejada is known to fist-bump every teammate just before every game starts.
Royals right-hander Jeremy Guthrie, a former teammate of Tejada’s in Baltimore, apparently already is caught up once again with Tejada’s infectious energy. Guthrie tweeted after the signing of Tejada: “Bienvenido Miggy! Uno de los con quien más me gustó jugar.” That translates to: “Welcome Miggy! One of those with whom I most enjoyed playing!”