The soon-to-be 32 year old is coming off a career year with the Tigers, in which he hit .318/.345/.450 with 10 home runs and 3.1 fWAR. Infante is a solid defender at second, and while he doesn’t offer a ton of upside, he is an upgrade over the Royals’ second base situation in recent years, as I outlined yesterday. Steamer projects Infante to hit .288/.325/.407 in 2014, good enough for 2.2 WAR.
Going off of recent Royals’ strategies, it may make sense to assume Ned Yost will bat Infante 2nd in the lineup, which will drop Alex Gordon into the middle of the order. While having Infante near the top of the order isn’t the worst decision the team could make, he’s probably better suited for 6th or 7th so he’s not getting more plate appearances than superior Royals’ hitters. If Infante does hit 2nd, opposing pitchers shouldn’t expect to rack up many strikeouts in the first inning, since both Infante and Norichika Aoki have strikeout rates under 14%.
Infante’s presence at second base means that Emilio Bonifacio is likely going to be a super utility player, which is a great role for him. It also likely means that Christian Colon will remain in Omaha for at least another year.
Adding Infante’s salary will push the Royals’ payroll to another record-setting level, so we’ll have to see if the team moves any other players in an effort to cut that number down a bit. Billy Butler is the name being thrown around the most in trade rumors, but Luke Hochevar and Wade Davis are a couple of other higher-priced players that some teams may have an interest in.
It’s hard to completely hate a free agent signing for a player who is probably going to provide average or slightly above average production for less than $8 million per season, although I’m not a huge fan of the 4th year, much like the Jason Vargas signing. A team can do much worse than Infante, and they acquired him without having to surrender any prospects or major league players. Infante is a solid player, and if the Royals can add another high impact starter before the winter is over, they may be in store for a very exciting season.