House, who also plays first base, last season batted .306 with 18 home runs and 60 RBIs for Triple-A Round Rock in the Houston organization.
The Royals also re-signed catcher Matt Tupman and signed right-handed pitcher Franquelis Osoria, both to Minor League contracts.
House, 29, has played in the Majors with the Pirates, Orioles and Astros but for just 32 games, in which he was 10-for-60 (.167) with three homers.
"We signed him to catch," said Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo. "We thought J.R. was a good fit. He can also play first, he's a right-handed hitter and with Kila [Ka'aihue] in Triple-A, we could have a right-left combination at first base as well."
Picollo said House has had shoulder problems in the past.
"I know the knock on him has been his defense isn't real strong, but it's a serviceable job that he does and, hopefully, his shoulder will hold up and it'll be fine," Picollo said. "He's an offensive-type guy and that's an attraction with him."
House has played in 817 Minor League games with a .310 average, 108 homers and 509 RBIs.
A highly regarded quarterback for Nitro High in Charleston, W.Va., House threw 10 touchdown passes in the 1998 state championship game. He played baseball in the spring for Seabreeze High in Ormond Beach, Fla., because his auto-dealer father split his residency.
House was selected in the fifth round of the 1999 First-Year Player Draft by the Pirates and made his Major League debut with them in 2003. When his baseball career seemed over, he went to West Virginia University for the 2005 season and played backup quarterback before returning to baseball.
Tupman, also 29, hit .229 last summer for Triple-A Omaha. He played in one game for the Royals and singled in his first Major League at-bat at Florida.
Now recuperating from shoulder surgery, Tupman is expected to be game-ready by mid-March.
Osoria, 27, has pitched in the Majors in each of the past four seasons for the Los Angeles Dodgers (2005-06) and the Pirates (2007-08), posting a 4-9 record and a 5.48 ERA in 104 relief appearances.
Last season, Osoria pitched in 43 games for the Pirates, going 4-3 with a 6.08 ERA. He also was in 10 games for Triple-A Indianapolis (2-1, 3.55 ERA). Osoria was released after the season.
All three players have been invited to the Major League Spring Training camp.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.