Friday, December 13, 2013
KC looks for Infante to replicate success
By Mark Simon
Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsThe Kansas City Royals made what they think is an upgrade to their infield by agreeing to a four-year deal with free agent second baseman Omar Infante on Friday.
Omar Infante's specialty is making sure bat meets ball.
They’re counting on two different things from Infante—that his offensive numbers from last season can be maintained, even though they’re a bit abberational, and that his defensive numbers from last season were an aberration, and will return to what they were in past seasons.
Infante hit .318, with a .345 on-base percentage and .450 slugging percentage last season. He had the fourth-highest batting average among anyone in the American League with at least 250 plate appearances last season.
He also ranked as the third-toughest hitter in the league to strike out, fanning in only 9.2 percent of his plate appearances last season.
Infante was among the game’s best two-strike hitters last season, hitting .272 with a .430 slugging percentage in those situations, each of which ranked fifth-best in the majors (among those with at least 100 two-strike plate appearances).
These numbers differ from his career totals and recent trends in a couple of ways. He hit .218 in two-strike situations from 2008 to 2012, and his five two-strike home runs were one more than he had from 2009 to 2012 combined.
Royals second baseman had a .243/.296/.304 slashline last season. Their .600 OPS at the position rated 28th among the 30 major-league teams. It marked the third straight season that Royals second baseman ranked in the bottom seven of the league in that statistic.
The one thing that the Royals did get out of their second baseman last season was defense. Their second basemen combined for 18 Defensive Runs Saved, the most of any team in the major leagues.
Infante normally rates as a steady second baseman. He had 13 Defensive Runs Saved at the position from 2010 to 2012. But last season, he finished with -5 Defensive Runs Saved.
Infante’s rating was hurt by issues handling line drives and popups. He may be helped moving to Kansas City and working with Royals outfielders Lorenzo Cain and David Lough, each of whom had positive ratings on balls hit to the shallowest parts of the outfield.
Infante will reportedly net $30.25 million over the course of the deal. He joins Jason Vargas, who received $32 million over four years, as the team’s two primary free-agent signings. It’s the first time in Royals history that they’ve signed two free agents to contracts worth $30 million in the same offseason.
He’s the 11th free agent this offseason to agree to a contract worth $30 million. The last offseason with more such deals was in 2006-2007, when there were 14.