The destination of free agent second baseman Omar Infante became a lot more interesting and newsworthy than we ever anticipated once Robinson Cano joined the Seattle Mariners on a 10-year, $240 contract late last week. That's not to say Infante isn't a valuable player, of course, but it does say a lot about how the dynamics of the offseason change when the New York Yankees have a rather significant void in their lineup that needs to be filled.
With Cano gone, Infante immediately became New York's next logical target to play second base, but as ESPN's Buster Olney first reported on Friday, their search will have to continue after Infante agreed to a four-year contract with the Kansas City Royals. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman later confirmed the deal is worth $30.25 million and includes incentives.
On the surface this actually looks like a solid deal for Kansas City. Infante, who will turn 32 on Dec. 26, hit .318/.345/.450 with 24 doubles and 10 home runs in 118 games last season. It all added up to a career best 113 OPS+, which is a perfect scenario for an impending free agent looking to cash in. It's reported Infante was seeking four years at around $40 million on the market, which is a little steep. Given the Yankees need, though, it's a little surprising they didn't match or even exceed that number slightly to bring him in the fold. That's probably a pretty strong indication they didn't feel Infante could repeat or come close to those numbers over the next four years, or perhaps they have a bigger target in mind like Brandon Phillips of the Cincinnati Reds.
Regardless of which direction the Yankees end up going, the door was opened for Kansas City to scoop in and sign Infante at a more affordable price that falls more in line with his actual value. And as many have noted already, his value to the Royals could be significant as he slots in perfectly in an already potent lineup.
The Royals' projected lineup: Aoki RF, Infante 2B, Gordon LF, Butler DH, Hosmer 1B, Perez C, Cain CF, Moustakas 3B, Escobar SS. Pretty good.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 13, 2013
If the Royals get Infante for $8 million AAV, can't really complain. That's what he's worth, and they're a lot better with him than without.
— robneyer (@robneyer) December 13, 2013
In 2013, Royals' second basemen combined to hit .243/.296/.304 with only four home runs. In other words, it won't take much for Infante to provide an upgrade at the position and a boost in their lineup. That, in turn, should make the situation much more comfortable for Infante as opposed to being the man tasked with following Cano in New York.
Though it's far from a guarantee Infante will end up being worth the whole contract, this looks like an ideal fit for both sides at this stage in the game.
- - - - - - -