SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Jarrod Dyson always had a feeling he’d be wearing a Royals uniform again.
Four years after the Royals traded Dyson to the Mariners, and six years after he won a World Series championship with Kansas City, the veteran outfielder is back with the club that drafted him in the 50th round of the 2006 MLB Draft. The Royals announced their one-year Major League signing of Dyson on Friday, bringing another familiar face back to the organization.
“I’m glad to be back home,” Dyson said Saturday morning in an introductory press conference. “I just feel great. This is where my career started, and there’s not a better place I’d rather be. The ownership and all that, they’ve always been great to me. … In my head, I always felt like there’d be a time I’d get back. When the time is right, I’d definitely be back. And I’m here.”
Dyson, 36, spent his first seven seasons with the Royals, hitting .260/.325/.353 with 176 stolen bases in 550 games. He was a key part of Kansas City's American League pennant-winning teams in 2014 and '15, and he scored the championship-clinching run on Christian Colón’s 12th-inning single in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series against the Mets at Citi Field. He coined the phrase, “That’s what speed do,” in '14, which became a rallying cry over the next two years at Kauffman Stadium.
Dyson's ability to spark a lineup with his speed and to impact a clubhouse with his personality is why the Royals felt like he’d be a fit on their team in 2021, as they try to make a turn toward contending. His 11 years of big league experience was another reason, especially as Kansas City spent the offseason with a focus on adding veterans to its roster.
Dyson seemed eager to share his knowledge with the younger players, wanting to make his presence felt and voice heard -- just like he did when he was first with the Royals.
“He’s somebody that you want around,” general manager Dayton Moore said. “I felt Jarrod Dyson would be a heck of a coach someday, I’ve known that a long time. But he’s got a lot left as a player. He brings speed, he brings athleticism. He’s one of the better outfielders, in my mind, in the game. He’s always had a very good approach at the plate. He’s a tough out, he works the count. He can do some things.
“And it takes a special talent to be able to survive in this game as long as he has. He’s a player that’s going to help us, and we’re really fortunate that he’s back with us.”
Dyson figures to be the Royals’ fourth outfielder on their Opening Day roster, also serving as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement, with Andrew Benintendi starting in left field, Michael A. Taylor in center and Whit Merrifield in right. Young outfielders Nick Heath and Edward Olivares are vying for roster spots this spring, too, and manager Mike Matheny said the message remains the same to them -- continue to compete during Spring Training and earn a spot.
“We need what [Dyson] brings,” Matheny said. “You’re talking elite-caliber speed and elite-caliber defense when we need to make a move. That combined with the intangibles, not putting one in front of the other.”
Whatever role Dyson is in, he'll bring the same energy he had when he was first with the Royals, then with the Mariners, D-backs, Pirates and White Sox. After all, he made some of his biggest impact for Kansas City while not being a regular in the lineup.
In 2014, Dyson played in 120 games and started 66, batting .269 with a .324 on-base percentage. He stole 36 bases and scored 33 runs. In ’15, he played in 90 games with 55 starts, hit .250 and stole 26 bases while scoring 31 runs.
“It’s the same thing, man,” Dyson said. “No matter where you go to, it’s the same goal: Winning. Whatever I have to do, whatever my role, I've got to play it. Everybody's got a role they must play in this game. Whether it’s coming off the bench, starting every day, you got a role. It’s just playing it simple.”
Dyson said he’s healthy and feels strong. He’s the same player, he says, as he was earlier in his career. Just with one small difference.
“I feel like I’m just smarter,” Dyson said. “That’s about it. I feel like I still got my tools. I feel like I ain’t lost a step. I feel like I’m aging backwards. I never feel like I’m old or too old to play this game. I think I told Dayton I probably could run until I’m in my mid-40s, or something like that.”
Matheny said he heard Dyson arrive at the Royals' facility in Surprise before he saw him. And then, Matheny heard how some of the players who knew Dyson already reacted to seeing him.
That was all Matheny needed to know about how Dyson can bring a clubhouse together.
“It was energy,” Matheny said. “It lifted our entire clubhouse when he showed up [Friday]. You talk about a guy that can do that, and then a guy that can bring the skill set that he brings, which is very unique, too. What a great addition to our club.”