The Indians have signed infielder Elliot Johnson to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training, according to Jordan Bastian of MLB.com (Twitter link). Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish first connected the Indians to the ACES client yesterday (also on Twitter).
Johnson, 29, was acquired by the Royals as a player to be named later in the blockbuster James Shields-for-Wil Myers trade last offseason. He batted just .179/.218/.241 in 173 plate appearances with Kansas City before finding himself designated for assignment and claimed off waivers by the Braves. Johnson improved at the plate in Atlanta, hitting a more respectable .261/.317/.359 in 102 PAs. He also offers plus speed, as evidenced by his 22 stolen bases in 24 attempts in 2013.
Johnson's best asset is his ability to handle both up-the-middle positions. Ultimate Zone Rating thinks highly of his glove at second base (+7.9 UZR/150), while grading his shortstop defense as passable, though slightly below average (-2.7). Defensive Runs Saved pegs him at +13 in 602 innings at second base and +3 in 1079 innings at short.
While Ryan Raburn is one option to occasionally back up second baseman Jason Kipnis, he saw just 17 innings there last season and is better suited to play right field. Mike Aviles presents another option to back up Kipnis as well as shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, but Johnson could fight his way into the mix for a utility spot.