With Infante Struggling, Royals Fans May Have to Grin and Bear It

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Omar Infante was signed by General Manager Dayton Moore and the Kansas City Royals before the 2014 season as a solution to a problem that had long plagued the Royals.

They had a black hole at second base.

Long-time Royal Chris Getz had held down that post for the majority of the time after he was traded to the Royals from the White Sox following the 2009 season. From 2010 to 2013, Chris Gets played 332 games for the Royals, the overwhelming majority of which were at second base. His final offensive (ha!) tally for his time in Royals Blue was an expletive inspiring .248/.305/.295. This was good for an OPS+ of 66. League average is 100. He was not good.

In 2012, by far his best year offensively for the Royals, he did manage to slug .360 and raise his OPS to .672 and OPS+ to 83. This was the pinnacle of his career with a bat in his hand, and he was still 17% worse than the average major league hitter.

But this is the Royals. They don't emphasize the need to be Barry Bonds behind the plate, defense and base running reign supreme! Right?

According to the defensive metrics at baseball reference, Chris Getz during his 4 years in a Royals uniform was worth .8 defensive WAR. More or less, he was EVER so slightly better than the average defensive replacement you would call upon from the minors. An average major league player is expected to have an overall WAR value of approx. 2.0 for a season, and over 4 seasons Getz tallied 1.4.

Get the picture?

To make matters worse, the Royals had a young, inspiring second round pick of the 2008 draft banging on the door for a chance to play second base in Kansas City. In his first year in AAA Omaha, he finished with an .871 OPS and then followed that up with an .877 OPS in his second year at AAA in  2012.

Johnny Giavotella had become the darling backup quarterback that everyone was demanding to see. And for good reason. He had the pedigree of a high draft pick and the gaudy stats at AAA to brighten his already glowing resume.

In 2011, "Gio" got that call. In his first year in Major League Baseball, Gio saw a combined total of 187 plate appearances spread out over 46 games and managed to hit .247/.273/.376. Things actually got worse in 2012, when he hit .238/.270/.304. These numbers continued on about the same path through 2014, over sporadic stretches of playing time he managed to hit .238/.277/.334 for an OPS+ of 67. His defense was also a step below Chris Getz. Even with a bar set so very low, Gio couldn't manage to take hold of the 2b position.

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Christian Colon was drafted to be an heir apparent, as he was projected to be a fast mover through the Royals' system. He became a disappointment as he toiled through year after year of mediocrity until in 2014 he began to show some promise at AAA finishing with a solid .798 OPS.

The problem? The Royals had already signed Omar Infante to fill the void when it was evident Colon would not be ready.

In signing Infante, the Royals did what teams often do in free agency, they overpaid. But the difference is, the Royals didn't necessarily overpay so much in terms of dollars and cents (at least perceived at the time), but in the years of the deal. In what amounts to a 4 year, $30 million deal, they got themselves the second best second baseman on the free agent market, and did so for a reasonable price.

The 2010 All-Star had a decent enough track record to make it look like this would be a hard deal to lose for a team in so desperate a need of a second baseman. In the 4 years prior, he had an overall line of .295/.327/.415 which worked out to an OPS+ of 101. Average. Average is good. The Royals will take average.  Combine that with his OK defense, and he had been worth a total of 10.6 WAR from 2010-2013. In other words, he represented a monumental upgrade.

Fast forward to 2015, and partway through his second season of wearing a Royals uniform, he has been plagued by injuries and posted a very under whelming .248/.285/.336 line. The Royals seem to be right back where they began.

So what are the Royals to do? Christian Colon remains on the roster as the utility infielder, and has seen his fair share of playing time this year with time being missed by starters at 3b, SS and 2b. He has managed to do a decent job in this role, and has at times shown the ability to be a valuable player, though he has had some lapses both on defense and at the plate that show he is still a bit green.

It would be nice to think and probably reasonable that Colon would be able to match or exceed the lackluster production Infante has given so far, but its not even close to that simple.

With Infante on the hook for TWO MORE SEASONS after 2015, "cutting bait" is something that isn't even an option. There were some rumors that Dayton Moore was shopping Infante before the season, but given his age (33) and injury concerns, is probably worth……well…nothing. Maybe even less than nothing given the terms of his contract.

So Royals fans….it seems the best answer at this point is to hope that Infante is able to work out of the funk he has been in. He has been reported as suffering bone spurs in his elbow, which may help explain some of his woes this year but offers nothing but a grim outlook for the remainder of the 2015 season as he will probably need surgery to correct them. There is the possibility that if Colon manages to show he is a decent upgrade offensively, he may put pressure on the Royals, but at the end of the day, it would be a stretch to think they would bench one of the highest paid position players on the team.

The disabled list would probably be the only way he is coming off of the field, and even then, his absence creates a hole in the lineup. Orlando Calixte would become the "next man up" presumably and he has a .196 batting average for AAA Omaha with no pop. Ryan Jackson may have been an option, but the Royals recently traded him for backup catcher help. Possibly Whit Merrifield who is having a decent season….but you see the point. There is no "ripe fruit" on the Royals second baseman tree.

In other words? Buckle up…its going to be a long and bumpy ride…but one we really have no choice but to take.

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Author: lukegoosen

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