The Royals have agreed to terms with second baseman Omar Infante to a four-year, $30 million contract earlier today, which comes at perhaps a year longer than people would have liked, but for less money than anyone had originally speculated. The Average Annual Value of the deal works out to $7.5 million, which puts Infante into the top-tier of paid players on the Royals, but will end up paying him less (on a per-year basis) than Jeremy Guthrie over the next two seasons, or Jason Vargas over the life of his contract.
Infante started 116 games for the Tigers last season, hitting a career-best .318/.345/.450 (117 wRC+) and accumulating 3.1 Wins Above Replacement. Projected out over a full season of 150 games played, Infante would have earned 3.94 WAR.
Over the last four seasons, Infante has averaged 137 games played and an average of 2.55 WAR. He has been decent on the defensive side of things, earning about two Wins with his glove alone the last three seasons. His offensive surge last season was a career-best, fueled in part by a career-high Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) of .333. The most likely average performance the Royals can expect from Infante is his 2011 season with the Marlins, when he hit .276/.315/.382.
The most interesting thing about this contract is that, for Infante to live up to the value of his deal, he only has to post about five Wins over the next four seasons, when you adjust for inflation on a $/WAR basis. Now, if Infante only accrues 5 WAR over the next four seasons, this will have turned out to be a pretty dismal deal for the Royals. They need surplus value from their free agent signings. Jason Vargas and Omar Infante represent a payroll commitment of $62 million (about 10 WAR, adjusted for inflation) over the next four years, and between them the Royals will likely need to see $100 million (16 WAR) worth of value to truly make the deals palpable.
This was a good deal, though, given how the market for free agents has shaken out. The dollar value is actually a bit lower than you may have expected, particularly given the length of the contract. The decent average value also makes the idea of trading Infante in year 3 or 4 of his contract a distinct possibility, so despite the extra year of commitment, the Royals might simply be able to eat a couple million dollars and ship him out if/when a prospect becomes ready.
The Royals front office made a savvy business decision, and they have essentially locked in their starting nine and their lineup for the upcoming season. Unless something happens on the Butler front, that is.
But for today, Royals fans should sit back and enjoy a decent free agent acquisition by a front office that hasn’t seen a true impact free agent since Gil Meche.
–Follow Me On Twitter @JoshuaKWard