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Elliot Johnson, Chris Nelson, Paul Janish sign deals as utility market heats up

The three middle infielders were recently non-tendered, but latched on to teams with minor league deals on Monday.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

While Monday was a relatively quiet day around the majors, three utility infielders inked minor league contracts that will allow them chances to compete for major league roster spots during spring training. All three infielders were non-tendered by their teams in December, and will head to camp looking to break back into the majors as in a backup role.

Rockies sign Paul Janish

The Rockies have signed Paul Janish to a minor league contract that includes an invite to spring training, as first reported by Jon Heyman of The 31-year old is known as one of the best defensive shortstops in the game, and is usually used as a defensive replacement late in games. In 52 games with the Braves in 2013, he hit only .171 with 2 RBI, causing his lifetime average to drop to .214 over six major league seasons with the Reds (2008-2011) and Braves (2012-2013). He will likely serve as depth in Triple-A in case Troy Tulowitzki gets injured, but could compete for a bench job against Josh Rutledge and Charlie Culberson.

Reds sign Chris Nelson

The Reds agreed to a minor league deal with infielder Chris Nelson, as Mark Sheldon of reported. The deal includes an invitation to spring training, allowing Nelson to compete for a ulility role on the major league roster. Nelson, who was non-tendered by the Angels in December, appeared in the majors with the Rockies, Yankees and Angels last season, posting a .221 average with 3 HR and 20 RBI in 43 combined games. He will likely serve as a backup to Brandon Phillips and Todd Frazier, and has major league experience at second base, third base and shortstop.

Indians sign Elliot Johnson

The Indians announced that they have signed infielder Elliot Johnson to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training, as we first reported was likely over the weekend. Johnson, who was non-tendered by the Braves in December, will likely compete for a job backing up Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera after hitting .209 with 2 HR and 19 RBI in 111 games split between the Royals and Braves in 2013. In parts of four major league seasons with the Rays (2008, 2011-2012), Royals (2013) and Braves (2013), he is a lifetime .273 hitter with 12 HR and 69 RBI.