Omar Infante Rumors

Free Agent Profile: Omar Infante

When you think of the ten best second basemen in the game, does the name Omar Infante spring to mind as a contender?  It should.  Infante, 32 in December, ranks eighth in FanGraphs wins above replacement by a second baseman for 2011-13.  This year, despite fewer games played than anyone ranked above him, Infante holds the seventh spot.  Among the six second basemen ranked above Infante in WAR this year, the only other free agent is Robinson Cano, who will be a consideration only for a select few ultra-rich large market teams.  If you're a GM looking to add a quality veteran free agent to solidify second base and you'd prefer not to dole out a nine-figure contract, Infante is your man.   

USATSI_7272227

Strengths/Pros

Infante doesn't strike out much, and that generally leads to solid batting averages.  He's had several seasons above .300, including this one, and hasn't hit below .271 since 2005.  

Defensively, UZR/150 considers Infante a plus.  Defensive runs saved from The Fielding Bible suggest he's a bit above-average with the glove as well.

Infante also offers versatility, as he can play third base, shortstop, and the outfield in a pinch.

Weaknesses/Cons

When he hits .300 or better, Infante's on-base percentage will be pretty good, as it is this year at .348.  However, since he generally only draws a walk in about 4% of his plate appearances these days, he's not going to be an OBP threat if he settles back into a batting average in the .270s.  Tigers manager Jim Leyland deserves credit for not confusing the ability to make contact with the ability to get on base, as he's batted Infante in the bottom third of the order more than 80% of the time this year.

Infante rates well among second basemen in slugging percentage, but that gives credit to his many singles, making it a poor choice to measure his power among his peers.  Isolated power puts him 15th among 25 second base qualifiers since 2012, in a similar range as Neil Walker and Dustin Pedroia.  Infante has a few double-digit home run seasons on his resume, but he's not a middle of the order hitter.

It would be unfair to suggest durability is a concern with Infante, who played in almost 150 games in each of the 2011 and '12 seasons.  However, a sprained ankle suffered in July this year kept Infante out for over a month, with a few setbacks during the recovery process.

Infante's stock would be hurt significantly if he receives and turns down a qualifying offer from the Tigers, which FanGraphs' Dave Cameron recommends the team makes.  Losing a potential first-round draft pick to sign Infante would severely limit his appeal, and perhaps he would be compelled to become the first player to accept a qualifying offer.  In that case Infante would earn more in 2014 than he did in the previous four years combined, but would hit the open market again after the season.

Personal

Infante, his wife Yohanna, and their four-year-old son Yomar reside in Lecheria, Venezuela during the offseason.  Omar and Yohanna have been married for over ten years.  From what we've heard, Infante is beloved by other players and coaches and is a hard worker.  He is a family man and a private person.

Market

One feasible scenario is the Tigers and Infante agreeing to a new deal before qualifying offers are due in November, or at least before the open signing period.  My guess is that the Tigers ultimately would not make Infante a qualifying offer — $14MM might be twice the average annual value Infante would get on the open market.  The Tigers don't have to decide now, and are probably keeping an open mind.  Detroit should have strong interest in retaining him, regardless.  The Yankees could be a fit for Infante if Cano signs elsewhere, while the Cubs, Orioles, Dodgers, and Royals could make sense as well.  Free agent competition is light outside of Cano, as Mark Ellis, Kelly Johnson, and Brian Roberts are the top names.  Any team that misses out on Cano could conceivably bid for Infante, should he reach the open market.

Expected Contract

Infante was represented by Alan Nero of Octagon for most of his career, according to MLB.com's Jason Beck, but Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports recently revealed the infielder switched to Gene Mato this year.  Two years ago, Infante inked a two-year, $8MM extension with the Marlins in the final days of the 2011 season.  He's improved his stock drastically since then, and this offseason probably represents his one shot at a big contract.

The most relevant contract for Infante might be Marco Scutaro's three-year, $20MM deal with the Giants signed in December last year.  However, Scutaro's deal covers his age 37-39 seasons, while a three-year deal for Infante would cover his age 32-34 campaigns.  Cameron referenced Martin Prado's four-year, $40MM deal as a potential comparable.  That contract was not signed on the open market, and still included $33MM covering Prado's first three free agent years.  While there is a sabermetric case for Infante receiving a bit more than $33MM over three years, I consider that his ceiling on the open market, as Prado is younger and a better hitter (and, incidentally, the godfather to Infante's son).  My guess is that Mato will set his sights on four guaranteed years at the outset, and ultimately I peg Infante at a three-year, $25MM deal.

It should be noted that my prediction includes the assumption that Infante does not reach the open market having turned down a qualifying offer.  If he receives and rejects a qualifying offer and reaches the open market, I would knock my ceiling down to Scutaro's contract.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Omar Infante Changes Agencies

Tigers second baseman and pending free agent Omar Infante is now represented by Gene Mato of Mato Sports Management, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter).  Infante was previously represented by Octagon Sports Management.

The move is notable not just because Infante is in his walk year, but because Mato also represented teammate Anibal Sanchez.  Both players came over via trade last July from the Marlins.

Infante, 31, is hitting .317/.344/.453 with nine homers in 389 plate appearances this season.  it's a slash line that's a marked improvement over his career numbers of .279/.318/.402.  While Robinson Cano will obviously the top second baseman on the open market this winter, Infante will find a less crowded market at his position after Chase Utley inked a contract extension with the Phillies.

You can keep track of everyone's representation by using the MLBTR Agency Database.


AL Central Notes: Tigers, Francona, Alomar

Anibal Sanchez will take the ball in Oakland tonight as the Tigers look to advance to the ALCS for the second consecutive season. In the meantime, here are some AL Central links…

  • The Tigers' decision to trade for Sanchez and Omar Infante looks better than ever, Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press writes. Sanchez, a free agent this offseason, said he doesn't think much about what will happen when his contract expires. "Right now, I just focus on what I'm going to do tomorrow," he said.
  • Manager Terry Francona said he's not worried about how much the Indians spend on payroll, Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal reports. "My job is to build a relationship with every player on the team and get the most out of them,” Francona said. The skipper is believed to be earning something close to the $4MM salary he earned in Boston, Ocker writes.
  • Francona and GM Chris Antonetti have talked to Sandy Alomar Jr. about joining the Indians’ on-field staff, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports (via Sulia). Alomar told Hoynes he expects to return, though managerial opportunities could emerge elsewhere. Alomar, a 20-year veteran of the Major Leagues, was a finalist for the Indians job.


Knobler On Rodriguez, Sanchez, Infante

The latest notes and rumors from Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com…

  • The Brewers hoped to market Francisco Rodriguez to teams seeking bullpen help, but that may be difficult given the right-hander’s recent struggles and $8MM salary. "Good luck to them," one scout told Knobler.
  • The Tigers view Anibal Sanchez as a true rental player, Knobler writes (all Twitter links). They see the right-hander as a middle-of-the-rotation starter, but felt they didn’t have a strong chance of acquiring a true top-of-the-rotation starter this summer. The Tigers proposed the trade for Sanchez and Omar Infante last week.
  • It now appears likely that trade candidate Edinson Volquez will stay in San Diego, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. The Padres intend to keep Volquez, who drew trade interest this summer, according to Heyman.

Tigers Acquire Omar Infante, Anibal Sanchez

4:59pm: The teams also swap the picks they obtained in last week's competitive balance lottery, Peter Gammons of MLB Network tweets. The Marlins obtain prospects Rob Brantly and Brian Flynn along with Turner, Gammons tweets. The Tigers will now have the last pick in compensation round A (after the first round), while the Marlins will have the final pick in compensation round B (after the second round).

4:41pm: The Tigers have addressed their two most pressing needs with one trade, acquiring Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez from the Marlins in a deal that will send top pitching prospect Jacob Turner to Miami. Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports first reported the trade, which suggests the Marlins are willing to look to 2013 and beyond following a disappointing 44-51 start to the season (on Twitter).

The Marlins are extremely disappointed by their team's performance and are prepared to make a series of trades, Ken Rosenthal and Morosi report (on Twitter). Josh Johnson, Randy Choate and Carlos Lee are among the team's possible trade chips.

Infante, who played for the Tigers from 2002-07, should provide Detroit with an offensive boost at second base. Tigers second basemen — mainly Ramon Santiago and Ryan Raburn — have combined for an MLB-worst .201/.286/.276 batting line. Infante, who's in the first year of a two-year, $8MM contract, has a .287/.312/.442 batting line in 347 plate appearances this year.

Meanwhile, Sanchez will provide Detroit with an established starter to go along with Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello and Doug FisterDrew Smyly, now on the disabled list, provides the team with an additional option. Sanchez, 28, has a 3.94 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 121 innings for Miami this year. He's earning $8MM this year and is on track to hit free agency after the season. The Tigers won't be able to obtain compensatory draft picks for Sanchez, since he was acquired midseason.

Turner, the ninth overall selection in 2009, entered the season as the 22nd-best prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America. He started for the Tigers yesterday, helping Detroit beat the White Sox 6-4. The 21-year-old has spent most of the season in the minor leagues, where he has a 2.77 ERA with 6.1 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 84 1/3 innings so far in 2012.

Flynn, 22, has a 3.95 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 107 innings as a starter at Class A and Double-A this year. The 6'8" left-hander was a seventh round selection in 2011. Brantly, 23, is a catcher who has spent the 2012 season in the upper minors. He has a .287/.332/.387 batting line in 334 plate appearances so far this year.

MLB.com's Joe Frisaro first reported Turner's inclusion in the deal (on Twitter).


East Notes: Rays, Infante, Ankiel, Moyer

On average, the ten teams in baseball's two East divisions are four games over .500. Here’s the latest from the two divisions…

  • Rays president Matt Silverman says MLB needs to make significant changes to its economic structure, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. “We have advocated for meaningful change, especially when it comes to addressing the dramatic imbalances in our game,” Silverman said. “Meaningful change has not occurred.” The Rays were one of two eligible teams that didn’t obtain an additional draft pick in yesterday’s competitive balance lottery. Silverman called the picks “trifling.”
  • The Tigers have barely obtained any offensive production from second base this year, so John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press discusses the possibility of a reunion with Omar Infante in light of yesterday's report linking the Tigers to the Marlins infielder.
  • The Nationals recently asked a Mets person if they'd have interest in Rick Ankiel, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com reports (on Twitter). The Nationals believe the recently-designated Ankiel is a Major League caliber player and they expect him to be picked up by another club, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports (on Twitter). Peter Gammons of MLB Network suggests on Twitter that Ankiel would be a "great fit" for the Yankees.
  • Jamie Moyer intends to continue pitching, Tom Mahon of the Philadelphia Daily News reports. "I'm not retired," Moyer said, adding that his agent is working to find a fit for him. Moyer, 49, has been a free agent since the Blue Jays released him two weeks ago.

Red Sox, Marlins Discussed Crawford, Hanley, Bell

1:10pm: There's no current discussion involving Crawford, Ramirez and Bell, ESPN.com's Buster Olney reports (on Twitter). The idea surfaced briefly as a concept and immediately died.

12:57pm: The Red Sox and Marlins are discussing a trade that would send Carl Crawford to Miami for Hanley Ramirez and Heath Bell, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports. The Marlins approached the Red Sox about the possible blockbuster, Nightengale reports.

The biggest impediment to the deal is the Marlins' indecision about their course for the rest of the 2012 season. Miami VP Dan Jennings is in Boston scouting Crawford, according to Nightengale. The potential trade would be the second-biggest contract swap in history, trailing only the 2004 trade involving Alex Rodriguez and Alfonso Soriano, Nightengale writes.

The Marlins are also discussing trades involving Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez, plus a deal that would send Omar Infante back to Detroit, Nightengale reports.

Ken Rosenthal reported earlier today that the Red Sox are determining trade interest in Crawford. However, GM Ben Cherington says there's "nothing going on" with the left fielder, who is in the second year of a seven-year, $142MM contract he signed following the 2010 season.


Olney On Marlins, Rays, Upton

General managers say the trade market has been surprisingly stagnant, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney writes. The value of a Wild Card berth has diminished under baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement, and executives wonder if this change has affected the trade market. “There's not as much incentive to being a Wild Card team as there has been,” one NL GM told Olney. Here are the rest of Olney’s notes and rumors:

  • Under the new CBA, the spending money attached to draft picks is more valuable than the picks themselves, one GM said. Teams with large spending limits have more flexibility than other clubs and can pursue players more aggressively.
  • Olney spoke with officials who are convinced the Diamondbacks will trade Justin Upton. Here are all the latest rumors on Upton.
  • The 43-46 Marlins and the 46-44 Rays could create a significant shift in the trade market between now and the end of July. Both Florida teams are hovering around .500 for now.
  • The Marlins will be willing to discuss every player on their roster, including Giancarlo Stanton, Josh Johnson and Omar Infante, if they decide to sell, Olney writes.

Rosenthal’s Latest: Marlins, ChiSox, Headley, Orioles

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has a bunch of new rumors for us today in a pair of videos. Let's round 'em up…

  • Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria may soon be faced with the question about selling at the deadline, something he wanted to avoid in the first year of the club's new ballpark. The best thing they could do to improve their farm system likely involves trading guys like Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante, and the newly acquired Carlos Lee.
  • White Sox GM Kenny Williams always thinks big and it would not be surprising to see him get in on pitcher such as Zack Greinke. The problem is that his farm system doesn't have much to offer and they don't want to give up pieces off the big league roster while contending.
  • The best guess right now has the Padres keeping Carlos Quentin and trading Chase Headley. Rosenthal says it's simple supply-and-demand; as many as ten teams have shown interest in the third baseman Headley. The team isn't sure they can get more for Quentin in a trade than they would by letting him walk as a free agent and recouping draft picks after the season.
  • The Orioles are clearly buyers. They're willing to trade any prospect not named Dylan Bundy or Manny Machado, but they probably don't have enough to get Greinke. They do have interest in lesser arms like Joe Blanton and Jason Vargas, as well as leadoff man Juan Pierre.
  • The Brewers could pit the Rangers and Angels against each other in the Greinke sweepstakes. Texas is unwilling to trade Mike Olt, Jurickson Profar, or Martin Perez for a rental, which could create an opening for the Halos if they're willing to deal Major League talent.
  • The Phillies do not intend to trade Cliff Lee to create payroll room for Cole Hamels. If they do keep Hamels long-term, they could have $140MM tied up in just eight players going into next season.

AL Central Notes: Tigers, Infante, Pavano, Twins

We took a glimpse at the NL Central earlier this evening and in the interest of equal time, we'll run down the latest out of the AL Central as well..

  • The Tigers have Marlins second baseman Omar Infante on their shopping list, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com (via Twitter).  If Miami sells, Stark writes that the former Tiger would be an excellent fit for Detroit.  
  • Carl Pavano could have been a potential trade chip for the Twins but the hurler won't be back in action before the trade deadline, tweets Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN.  Mackey notes that the Twins acquired Pavano prior to the waiver deadline in 2009 and speculates that they could go that route this year if they choose to move him.
  • Adelyn Santa, the Tigers' most expensive international signing in 2011, is no longer with the team, writes Jim Callis of Baseball America.  The Dominican third baseman signed for $750K last year on July 3 and it's not yet known why he was cut loose by Detroit.