Infante Signs in Kansas City: Jays Miss the Boat

Arguably the best value name on that market has been taken off by the KC Royals: Omar Infante.

I touched on Infante in part 1 of my 2 part series on the 2b market (part 2 coming soon) without giving much thought to him since I figured the Yankees would sign him at 4 years $40M+. As I mentioned then, Infante is coming off 2 seasons of about 3.0 WAR, and had two years of abotu 2.0 WAR before that. Yes, he’ll be 32 this year, but he’s also coming off the best year of his career at age 31.

His skill-set is one that should age pretty well. He doesn’t rely on speed or power for success. He’s just good at making contact and avoiding strikeouts (less than 10% K% in 2013, which is kinda elite), and is about average at everything else. I don’t expect him to fall off a cliff anytime soon.

I don’t think we can expect Infante to repeat his career-best numbers of 2013, his .318/.345/.450 slash line. His BABIP was .333, well above what’s normal for him, so we can definitely expect some regression. Though, to be fair, he did hit more line drives this year (23.6%) than he normally does (career LD% 21.5%), so his spike in BABIP can be attributed at least partly to skill rather than luck. If his BABIP returns closer to his career .310 mark (or even falls a bit below it), we can likely take 20-30 points off his batting average and OBP. His power numbers this year (ISO of .132- a better measure of power than number of HRs) was slightly below the league average, but consistent with where Infante has been through his career. It may drop a bit this season, but shouldn’t drop much.

With this in mind, the Steamer projection for Infante’s 2014, which has him hitting .288/.325/.407 I think is pretty reasonable. That would give him a wRC+ of 101, making him a league-average hitter, which is about where I think his true talent level is right now. That’s pretty alright for a second baseman with pretty good defense. Steamer projection gives him 2.2 fWAR for 2014. A drop from the 3.0 WAR he’s averaged over the past two years, but not a huge drop.

A player like Infante should be counted on for 2-3 WAR next year, and at least 1-2 WAR, if not better, for the next 2-3 years after that. In other words, I’d expect him to continue to be a slightly above average player next year, and then an average to slightly below average player for the next 2-3 years after that.

The common estimation of WAR value over the past few years has been $5-$6M for 1 WAR. A player of Infante’s ilk is worth, based on this estimation, $10-$15M next year, and then $5-10M over the next 2-3 years. He will easily be worth the $30M he’s getting over the next 4 years, and that’s something that doesn’t happen too often with free agents.  Especially since the value of 1 WAR is likely to go up to around $7M in the next year or two.

Good on the Royals for making a rare smart move. I’m not sure what AA has up his sleeve for the Jays 2b situation, and there is still a lot of offseason left, but I can’t help but think that come March we’ll be left looking back at this deal and wishing the Jays had offered 4 years $32-$35M to land Infante. Especially since his deal could be backloaded and thus only cost the Jays $5-7M for 2014, it’s hard to imagine a better solution at 2b for less or the same money as that. I hope I’m wrong…

 

Topics: Omar Infante, Toronto Blue Jays

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  • david s

    Good stuff here.

    I think that it might be very true that Goins is the starting second baseman based on his DWAR alone. Could it be that with eight guys that can hit in the lineup, that Jays’ management is content with Goins’ .252 average? Fellow Texan Gibbons likes this kid a lot and he did say the team was going with youth. Izturis is definitely going to be on the bench too according to Gibby.

    Could the reason they did not go after Infante was the asking price? I don’t know. I do think that AA looked at the boat real hard, but concluded that he did not want to pay the fare or take the boat trip. There was no missing, there was choosing. Whether AA should have gone aboard, well, only time will tell.

    • Martin Klayman

      Thanks for the comment, David.
      I do agree with you that I’m sure AA did choose not to sign Infante. What I was questioning was whether or not that will end up being the right choice. Part of why I believe it was the wrong choice is that I have less faith in Goins than you do. I don’t think he’ll hit .252 again as he did last year (the projection systems, for example, have him hitting about .240 next year). But even if he did, I don’t think batting average is the most important statistic. There are more advanced ways to measure someone’s offense, and one of the more basic ones is OBP. Last year, Goins’ OBP was only .264. In other words, the guy was worse at drawing walks than JP Arencibia. A .250 avg is fine, but a .260 OBP is not. It would literally be one of the worst OBPs in all of baseball, if not the worst.

      Now, those numbers from last year were a small sample of 34 games, so it’s hard to draw many conclusions from it. But he’s been a well below average hitter for his entire minor league career, so there’s no reason to think he’ll be close to an average hitter in the MLB.

      That being said, his defense is awesome enough that he might be kinda passable as a regular player if nobody better can be found. Because of his defense he was worth 0.4 WAR according to Fangraphs last year in just 34 games. Extrapolating that over a full season gives 1.5-2.0 WAR, making him just a slightly below average starter. If he could really pull that off over a full year, then you are right, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.