KC Royals: Omar Infante Must Start Season Strong To Draw Trade Interest

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Aug 24, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals second baseman Omar Infante (14) drives in two runs with a triple against the Baltimore Orioles in the sixth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

The KC Royals are once again attempting to deal second baseman Omar Infante, according to rival executives who talked to Kansas City Star reporter Andy McCullough:

McCullough showed a sense of humor about his “scoop” wryly tweeting:

The clear inference is that the Kansas City Royals personnel department thinks that Christian Colon can handle second base, while dealing the 34-year-old Omar Infante would free up money better spent on retaining free-agent left fielder Alex Gordon—or adding a starting pitcher.

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The problem is I don’t see the KC Royals finding a team willing to take on the $17.75 million remaining in the final two years of Infante’s contract unless he gets off to a strong start to the 2016 season. Remember, Omar Infante was the worst hitting position player in baseball to get enough plate appearances to be eligible for the batting title last season (commonly termed a “qualified position player”). Infante’s Adjusted On Base Plus Slugging (OPS+) was a horrendous 49 (51% worse than a league average hitter in 2015)

If you favor advanced value metrics, Infante was a -0.8 bWAR (Wins Above Replacement) player, which means he has less value than a commonly available AAA player (0.0 WAR).

Who wants to pay good money for that kind of guy? With Omar Infante slashing a bad .252/.295/.337 in 2014, and an even worse .220/.234/.318 in 2015, trading him will be tough. Pretty much the only way would be to find a team desperate for second base help and convince them that Infante’s offensive struggles were due to untreated bone spurs in his right elbow. Since Infante finally got surgery to repair the problem, he might be in for a rebound in 2016.

While $17 million looks like a lot of money to us normal folks down here in Dogpatch, USA, that’s really a pretty moderate contract for two years of a major-league starter. With Wins Above Replacement having an approximate value of $8 million/WAR on the free agent market, Infante only needs to be a little bit better than a 1.0 WAR per year player in his age 34 and 35 seasons.

Even with those rather low expectations, I can’t see anyone biting until they see Omar Infante producing against major-league competition in games that count. They’d probably want to see multiple months of solid production, which makes an Omar Infante deadline deal the most reasonable expectation.

In short, I believe the KC Royals can deal Omar Infante if he can show the injury is behind him—but that isn’t going to happen in time to help free up money to sign Alex Gordon. At best, an Infante swap might be possible to help the team free up resources for trade deadline moves rather than payroll relief before the season begins.

Next: Candidates To Replace Alex Gordon

I simply see no way for general manager Dayton Moore to cut the “Gordian knot” this winter.

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