Omar Infante is now off the market. The Royals inked the second baseman to a four-year deal worth $30.5 million. ESPN's Buster Olney was first to report the agreement, while CBS Sports' Jon Heyman followed up with the financial terms. According to Heyman, incentives can boost the value of the contract even further.
Infante is coming off a terrific year for the Tigers, batting .318 with a .795 OPS, 24 doubles, 10 home runs and 51 RBI in 476 plate appearances. He ranked fifth in WAR among American League second baseman (minimum 450 PAs) at 3.1. Defensively, he placed fourth at his position with a 2.0 UZR.
The 31-year-old infielder became expendable in Detroit when Ian Kinsler was acquired for Prince Fielder. But Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski implied the team was ready to play prospect Hernan Perez at second base next season. The contract Infante eventually received probably had much to do with that stance. With Robinson Cano commanding megabucks on the open market, Infante became the most viable option for teams seeking a second baseman.
Those teams included Cano's former club, the New York Yankees. It's rather surprising that the Yanks didn't match or exceed the contract Infante agreed to with the Royals. The Yankees reportedly made a three-year, $24 million offer, but the Kansas City Star's Blair Kerkhoff reports that Infante turned that down because he wanted a fourth year. Obviously, he got that fourth year from the Royals. The Reds were also apparently interested in Infante, which further indicates that they want to ditch Brandon Phillips.
Picking up Infante continues an overhaul of the batting order that began when Kansas City acquired outfielder Norichika Aoki from the Brewers last week. Aoki is set to be the Royals' leadoff hitter, while Infante will presumably bat second. That allows manager Ned Yost to push Alex Gordon down in the lineup where he can be more of a run producer. This year, Gordon hit 20 home runs with 81 RBI. Those numbers could go up with Aoki and Infante batting in front of him.
The Royals can also now use Emilio Bonifacio in a utility role that takes advantage of his ability to play multiple positions, rather than starting him at second base.
Infante joins Aoki and pitcher Jason Vargas as significant additions to a Kansas City club that placed third in the AL Central this past season, seven games behind the Tigers. The Royals finished 5.5 games out of the AL's second wild-card playoff spot as well. Will these moves help push K.C. past Detroit in the AL Central? The team certainly seems to have that — or challenging for a wild-card bid — in mind next year. It's encouraging to see general manager Dayton Moore attempt to build on 2013's success.
UPDATE: One interesting footnote to the Infante signing that we forgot to include in this original post is this tweet from Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi.
This is interesting: Source says Giants had interest in Omar Infante — as a 2014 left fielder and possible third baseman in long term.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 14, 2013
With Marco Scutaro under contract for two more seasons, it certainly makes sense that the Giants wouldn't want Infante as a second baseman. But as a left fielder and third baseman? Infante does have experience in left field, having played 57 games at the position during his career. However, he hasn't appeared in left field since 2010.
Perhaps the Giants were looking to undercut the current market rate for outfielders (and the lack of available third basemen) by signing Infante to second baseman money. It's an interesting proposition, though Infante has clearly had his greatest success at second base.