Scouting The Free Agent Market: Omar Infante

Joe Torre unanimously elected to Hall of Fame by Expansion Era committee
Baseball America's Top Ten Yankees Prospects

The Yankees came into the offseason needing an everyday caliber infielder, and that need still exists after Robinson Cano took a ten-year contract from the Mariners last week. Kelly Johnson is a solid role player but probably not someone the team wants to earmark for 600+ plate appearances next season, though his versatility allows them to search for a second or third baseman. They have some flexibility when it comes to adding that infielder.

One of the best infielders still available on the open market is former Tigers second baseman Omar Infante, whom the Yankees contacted within the first few days of free agency. Jon Morosi recently reported the club even made Infante an offer a few weeks ago. I assume that was just a first offer and they plan to get a little more serious now that Cano is bolting for Seattle. Chances are Infante and his agent will bump up their price a little bit knowing New York just lost their franchise player. Can’t blame them.

Infante, who will turn 32 in a little more than two weeks, definitely fills a need for the Yankees, at least on paper. How good of a fit is he for the roster? That’s another question. Let’s dig in.

The Pros

  • Infante is a pure contact hitter from the right side. He hit .318 (.333 BAIP) with a 9.2% strikeout rate and an 84.5% contact rate this past season and .288 (.306 BABIP) with a 10.3% strikeout rate and an 86.7% contact rate over the last three years. That the 14th lowest strikeout rate and 33rd highest contact rate among 226 qualified hitters since 2011. He’s a classic all-fields hitter.
  • Infante didn’t have much of a platoon split this past season, hitting .326 with a 113 wRC+ against righties and .301 with a 124 wRC+ against lefties. The split is a bit more pronounced over the last three years but not enough to make him a straight platoon player: .283 average with a 90 wRC+ against righties and a .298 average with a 118 wRC+.
  • Although he was a utility man earlier in his career, Infante has settled in at second base over the last three years. The various metrics — +18 UZR, +5 DRS, +9 FRAA, and +29 Total Zone — say he’s been anywhere from slightly above-average to outstanding there. Infante also has a bunch of experience at third, short, and all three outfield positions.
  • Infante isn’t a burner but he is an asset on the bases. He has gone 26-for-33 (79%) in stolen base attempts over the last three years while taking the extra base (first-to-third on a single, etc.) a very good 49% of the time. The league average is around 40%.
  • The Tigers did not tender Infante a qualifying offer so teams will not have to forfeit a draft pick to sign him.

The Cons

  • Outside of hitting for contact, Infante doesn’t provide much else with the bat. He hit 30 doubles and 12 homers (.144 ISO) last year and 24 doubles with ten homers (.132 ISO) this year, so the extra base hits are few and far between. As the batted ball distance plot shows, he simply doesn’t hit the ball very far. Yankee Stadium doesn’t figure to boost his power output all that much.
  • Infante doesn’t walk, like at all. He drew a walk in 4.2% of plate appearances this year and 4.4% from 2011-2013, both well-below-average. Basically half the league average. Because he puts the ball in play so easily, he rarely works deep counts and has averaged only 3.40 pitches per plate appearances over the last three years.
  • Injuries have been a problem throughout his career, specifically hand injuries. Infante missed a little more than a month with a left wrist sprain this year and two weeks with a broken finger in 2011. He had surgery to repair a broken bone in his left hand in both 2008 and 2009, and also had a sports hernia repaired during the 2010-2011 offseason.
  • If you are concerned about such things, Infante has stunk (62 wRC+) in his limited postseason action (30 games and 119 plate appearances). He has played for contending teams in Atlanta and Detroit, so that won’t be a new experience.

Infante had the best offseason season of his career in 2013 (.318/.345/.450, 117 wRC+) and it came at a good time, right before free agency. From 2011-2012, he hit .275/.308/.400 (90 wRC+) in over 1,200 plate appearances. If he hits like he did this year, Infante is an above-average player thanks to his defense. If he hits like he did from 2011-2012, he’s average at best. Jon Heyman says the Royals are among the other clubs trying to land him, so the Yankees have competition.

A contract in line with Marco Scutaro’s three-year, $20M pact with the Giants would seem appropriate, but the market is crazy and Infante could wind up with three years and closer to $30M instead. That strikes me as pretty pricey for a guy with one above-average offensive season in the last three years and just two in his ten full seasons. His versatility is more reputation than reality at this point as well — it’s been fours years since he last played more than 30 innings at any position other than second — so I’m not sure how flexible he really is. Infante might be the best option at second base, but he also might be a guy who disappoints because he had his best season with the bat at just the right time.

Joe Torre unanimously elected to Hall of Fame by Expansion Era committee
Baseball America's Top Ten Yankees Prospects
  • Mykey

    Wouldn’t do much to help in the power department, but there’s really not a lot of options available there. I admit I’m a little more open to this move than I was earlier. It’s going to be hard after being used to such great production from second base.

    • lou

      I’m open it also. I rather have Omar then the endless cycle of mis fits that the Yankees would run out there.

  • Kosmo

    if NY decides to go this route and sign Infante it would be OK in my eyes but I´d much rather see someone like Aaron Hill. Ackley and Franklin are intriguing options too just ask BavarianYank.

    • Bavarian Yankee


      • Kosmo

        Why am I a jerk ? That was a lighthearted statement if there ever was one. Lighten up.

        • Bavarian Yankee

          Lighten up? I think YOU called ME out. Grow up.

          • Kosmo

            now your just being silly. called you out of what ? talking trades ? WOW. I apologize if I upset you.

            • Bavarian Yankee

              I don’t see any comments about trades from me in this thread. And yeah, you upset me. Don’t reply to me anymore, I won’t reply to you ever again either.

              • Algernon Blackwood

                Big trouble in little bavaria…

                • Chris in Maine

                  Kosmic trouble in Little Bavaria…

                  • Deep Thoughts

                    Someone got twisted up like a pretzel.

                    • Darnell Jones

                      Grow up clown.

  • Darren

    30 doubles and 12 HRs sounds pretty good compared to the David Adams of the world.

    • I’m One

      Possibly, or, over a full season at a position he’s comfortable in, maybe not. Adams (or CoJo or someone else of that ilk) might be ale to come close enough to those numbers to make them a consideraton due to the salary difference. Unfortunatly, we won’t know that unless/until it’s tried.

    • lou

      Sounds better then the 12 guys they would cycle in at 2b.

  • vin

    In this market, 3/27 is probably about right for a guy like Infante. It would be nice if the Yanks had a young player who could capably handle himself at 2b or 3b, but I don’t know who that is. This is the penalty the Yanks have to pay for Adams and CoJo not panning out.

    Since it’s not my money, I say sign Infante because he’s a pretty good fit. However, if budget is a concern, then this should be Nunez’s last chance to make an impression. I’m still concerned about the team’s depth, though.

  • Vincent Vega

    Can someone explain why Kelly Johnson can’t play 2nd full time? Everything I’ve read is that he’s a slighty above average player at 2nd. Just how much better in Infante over him?

    • Kosmo

      If NY lands a 3B then I could see Johnson platooning at 2B.

      • mitch

        Agreed. If they can land an everyday player at either 2B or 3B, i’d be fine with a Johnson/somebody platoon at the other position

    • Dalek Jeter

      Offensively they probably have roughly the same value, but in very different ways. Johnson is more of a patience/power kind of guy whereas Infante is a put the ball in play and make things happen kind of guy. But since we’re talking about a non-Robbie Cano/Troy Tulo type middle infielder (as in a guy who is going to hit you 30 homers) I don’t think power is as important coming from the a middle infielder. I could understand if Loverbay was going to be our 1st baseman and if Ichiro was going to be our starting RF’er and Vernon Wells our DH you’d want to get as much power as possible out of anywhere…but as it looks like those guys are going to be replaced with actual power threats and the 2B is going to be batting down in the order (7th or 8th) I personally would rather go with the contact guy. Plus fwiw, most defensive metrics put Infante at slightly better than average while UZR puts Johnson at slightly below.

  • John C

    If INfante’s price goes too high, then maybe Brian Roberts on a 1 year deal? He seemed finally recovered from his concussion miseries and hamstring problems last year

    • Mister D

      Nah, Roberts has to go to Tampa Bay or St. Louis and bounce back. Or maybe the Giants? They get vets to re-peak too.

  • Matt :: Sec110

    Because he’s not tied to a draft pick, I’m comfortable with 3 years $30M.

  • Robert

    2B we have KJ from TB already. If we dont lose Jose Pirela in Rule 5 he is an option and in 2 years Refsynder and Katoh our single A rookies could pan out!!

  • mike

    I hate a guy with no OBP/working the count tendencies…its like watching Ichiro ( Yankee-version), and seems like they will be spending alot for a #7/8 hitter

    • Mister D

      More palatable in a non-corner OF. Plus, in a perfect world, he gets displaced and serves as a better than average 5th IF.

  • MannyGeee

    I guess I could get behind Infante. That said (and this is where all the threads bleed into eachother), since Scutaro is mentioned… any chance he could be wiggled free from San Fran?

  • Deedee

    Is David Adams a viable 2B in the next year? Maybe not immediately, but eventually?

    • I’m One

      A few peple mentioned a platoon ealier If the Yankees got a solid 3B, then maybe a platoon with KJ would allow the Yankees to see if he might be a least acceptable short (1-3 years) or longer term.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner (the rarely spoken-of sibling)

      David Adams: The Eternal Prospect.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner (the rarely spoken-of sibling)

    I really thought we’d have signed him by the weekend. He’s definitely my first choice here. Competent in an everyday role. Will keep the lineup moving. Get this done.

  • mt

    Costing around $10 million a year and with no one outstanding skill (ecept contact, I guess), Infante does not thrill me. To me it would be OK to sign him but I would prefer a Kelly Johnson/Nunez platoon at 2B with someone like Mark Reynolds signed for 3b role and 1B back-up (Kelly J can play first base as a back-up too but given departure of Cano he will have more than enough plating handling 2B.) AS LONG AS as we make sure we get a more dependable, #2 or #3 type starting pitcher (I am not that thrilled with today’s Joel Sherman article that said Yankees starting pitching target may not be Tanaka so much anymore but “bottom-feeding” someone on level like prior “hidden gems” Colon/Garcia)

    • Jorge Steinbrenner (the rarely spoken-of sibling)

      Going that route with pitching would not be a good proposition.

      No thanks on the 2B platoon.

  • Matty Ice

    Power is not that important at 2B since we’ve upgraded in other areas:

    2013: Cano + Land of misfit toys at catcher= 35 home runs

    2013: McCann+ Infante= 32 home runs

    • Mister D

      But last year’s team wasn’t very good. Almost breaking even is a negative event.

      • Bavarian Yankee

        I guess that’s why they added Beltran and Ellsbury too. Let’s not forget that players like Jeter, Teixeira, A-Rod, Granderson, Youkilis etc. missed a lot of time, so just being healthy would make them better.

        • Mister D

          I thought we were just inside the C+2B bubble.

          • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

            “last year’s team”

            You must have meant last year’s C+2B then, if we’re just in that bubble.

            Last years C+2B was above average, thanks to Cano, even with Stewart behind the plate. Hardly “not very good”.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner (the rarely spoken-of sibling)

            Is that like the C3PO bubble?

      • Jorge Steinbrenner (the rarely spoken-of sibling)

        Yes but, if you’ve figured out a way to break even on those positions WHILE LOSING ROBBIE CANO, that’s not a bad thing.

        That’s not yelling, btw, just emphasis.

  • dasani

    Infantes price is starting to get over inflated, maybe if we trade Gardner we can get a 2b(Brandon Phillips ?)
    But please can we get off this David Adams spiel.

  • ptmilo

    I really hate infante for 3/30. So much that I would rather see them get Rickie Weeks, who is a bad defender, has been bad hitter for two years and costs $11.5 million. But trading Ichiro for Weeks would have a net cost of only $5m, and is only a one year obligation. That is a much lower commitment to mediocrity than 3/30 and though Weeks has more downside than Infante, he also has legitimate upside offensively. If Weeks is terrible, Johnson could take a lot of his at bats, and in a normal case they are a natural platoon.

  • Mike

    He might want to take a discount for us because we can offer him the best chance to get tot the WS.

  • Deep Thoughts

    Hitting in front of Brendan Ryan, he’s bound to up his BB rate, even if they’re all IBBs.

  • bkight13

    I don’t think they should go for Infante at all, especially at $10m. That money needs to be used for a SP. They already have 6 IFers with Jeter, Tex, Johnson, Nunez, Ryan and ARod. With 6 OFers, 2 Cs and that’s 14.

    With a glut of OFers, Johnson needs to be the primary 2B. After the ARod situation is resolved, they can decide if a trade for a 3B is needed.

  • W.B. Mason Williams

    Really think Adams hasn’t gotten a fair look. 140 PA’s at the major league level is nothing.

    Then again he only had about half a season at AAA and was ok.

    Could he use more seasoning at AAA? Yeah. Could he still be a .280 hitter with double digit homeruns? You betcha.

    I just don’t want him written off for the same minuscule audition that Austin Romine received.