Omar Infante Rumors
Re-signing Hiroki Kuroda, signing Carlos Beltran and watching Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson sign elsewhere --- even for hot stove perennials like the Yankees, Friday was a particularly noteworthy day. Here are some more items from the Big Apple.
- Omar Infante could be the biggest beneficiary of Cano's departure, Mark Feinsand and Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News report. The Yankees already extended an offer to Infante earlier this winter and, now that Infante is the top second baseman on the free agent market, he seems poised to command a larger offer from the Yankees or any suitor. Given position scarcity and the general rise of contracts this winter, Infante is in good shape to top the three-year, $25MM deal predicted for him by MLBTR's Tim Dierkes in September.
- Also from Feinsand (via Twitter), he doesn't think the Yankees are a contender to trade for David Price. The Yankees lack the prospects that the Rays would demand in return, and even if New York did have the minor league talent, it's unlikely that Tampa Bay would trade Price within the AL East anyway.
- Losing Cano won't slow the Yankees down, as the team plans to pursue several other free agents, USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports. Besides Infante and the already-signed Beltran, the Yankees will also continues talks with Shin-Soo Choo and Stephen Drew, as well as post a bid on Masahiro Tanaka if he's made available.
- With Beltran already in the fold, it would seem that Choo is no longer be a Yankee target, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman notes.
- For more Yankee-related material, check out this collection of reactions to Cano's signing with the Mariners.
The Yankees have made offers to several top free agent hitters, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. The list of players on whom the Yankees have bid Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran, Stephen Drew and Omar Infante. (ESPN's Buster Olney, however, tweets that the Yankees do not have an offer to Drew pending.) Morosi also tweets, however, that the Yankees did not extend the offer to Infante particularly recently, and that other teams appear more interested. Here are more notes from New York.
- Earlier today, we heard that Beltran had already received an offer of three years and $48MM. Newsday's Mark Carig reiterates, however, that the Yankees aren't likely to give Beltran three years (Twitter link).
- Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News, meanwhile, tweets that Nelson Cruz could also enter the Yankees' sights if the team loses out on Carlos Beltran.
- Feinsand also notes that, while the Yankees have shown some interest in closers, finding a closer is not their highest priority, and they're only likely to spend on one if Robinson Cano signs elsewhere.
The Orioles are close to a minor league deal with infielder Ivan De Jesus Jr., reports Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. However, the O's are likely to hold off finalizing the deal in order to avoid having to add De Jesus to the 40-man roster to protect him from being selected in next week's Rule 5 Draft. Baltimore learned their lesson the hard way in that regard back in 2004 when they signed Chris Gomez to a minor league deal on Dec. 8 and saw him selected in the Rule 5 Draft four days later, Kubatko points out. Some more links pertaining to the AL East...
- Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes that the Red Sox have had internal discussions about entering 2014 with Ryan Lavarnway as the team's primary catcher. Boston is more interested in a stopgap option as they await the arrival of Christian Vasquez and Blake Swihart at the big league level and is therefore reluctant to strengthen its existing two-year offer to Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
- The Yankees remain "very much engaged" with Omar Infante's agent, Gene Mato, according to Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com. The Yankees could try to sign Infante even if they retain Robinson Cano, says Marchand, envisioning him as a modern-day Tony Phillips who would play every day but at different positions. Marchand writes that the Yankees like Infante as a backup at third base and shortstop, and he also points out Infante's experience in the outfield.
- The Yankees paid a good amount to sign Cuban lefthander Omar Luis last year and they'll be making him available in this year's Rule 5 draft, writes Ben Badler of Baseball America. The Yanks initially signed Luis for a $4MM bonus but when an unexpected issue popped up in his physical, they negotiated that figure down to $2.9MM. It may be a long shot that any team will draft Luis, however, given how far away he is from contributing.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
Curtis Granderson is "a serious part" of the Yankees' offseason plans, GM Brian Cashman told George A. King III of the New York Post. Cashman told King that the Yankees remain interested and don't consider Granderson to be a fallback option by any means. Signing Granderson would likely mean the team would look to move Ichiro Suzuki, King adds. Here's more on the American League East.
- The Red Sox and David Ortiz made an agreement at the time of his last signing that the two sides wouldn't negotiate an extension until the completion of his current deal, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.
- Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald tweets that the Red Sox consider Dioner Navarro to be a fallback option if the free agent market doesn't break their way, but not a primary target.
- The Yankees are a good fit for Omar Infante, opines MLBTR's Tim Dierkes (Twitter link). Tim wonders if the Yankees, who reportedly don't want to wait for Robinson Cano before pursuing other free agents, should just strike quickly and snatch Infante up.
- Matt Wieters and Chris Davis of the Orioles are both Scott Boras clients, and they're both two years away from free agency. That means the Orioles need to determine what they plan to do with each player, MASNsports.com's Steve Melewski writes. What to do with Davis might be particularly tricky, since his 2013 season was so dramatically different from his past performances.
Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.
The Tigers didn't just get a talented second baseman in exchange for Prince Fielder, they got a whole lot of money (an estimated $76MM) to spend elsewhere. The question now becomes, what will they do with their new found financial flexibility? I asked Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski if the trade could lead to a long-term deal for star pitcher Max Scherzer.
"It makes it perhaps more possible. As we've talked about in the past, we have a lot of stars on our club, They're well paid stars and under any circumstances, even with an owner like Mike Ilitch, you can only be in a position where you have so many of those types of players," Dombrowski told reporters on this evening's conference call. "Does it make it probable? I can''t say that. But it makes it more possible going forward."
As Rangers GM Jon Daniels explained in his conference call earlier this evening, Dombrowski said that the deal came together at lightning speed with the first serious phone call taking place Tuesday afternoon. However, it would seem that the wheels started turning for the Tigers front office earlier than that. Dombrowski said that the Rangers made it clear at the GM Meetings that they were more interested in trading Ian Kinsler than fellow second baseman Jurickson Profar and were looking for a middle-of-the-order bat.
The arrival of Kinsler and the departure of Fielder will lead to a lot of change in the Detroit infield. While Dombrowski isn't exactly sure who will go where - Miguel Cabrera, he says, isn't a lock to go to first base in 2014 - Omar Infante is almost certainly out of the picture. However, even without the trade, it sounds like Infante was destined to change uniforms anyway.
"In Infante's case, I can't say 100%, but with the acquisition of Kinsler, we're not in a position to add a second baseman ... that was most likely the case before [anyway] because we were looking to go younger with Hernan Perez," said the Tigers GM.
Kinsler will man second base, but for how long? When asked if the 31-year-old can play the position for years to come, Dombrowski sounded optimistic about his ability to maintain his first step and range. He acknowledged that it could be an issue that is revisited down the line, but Kinsler figures to stay at second base for "the next couple years or maybe longer."
With the trade talks happening in less time than it takes to plan a weekend vacation, some elements were rushed. Dombrowski got the greenlight from Ilitch Wednesday afternoon and it didn't sound as though it was a lengthy conversation. Dombrowski also wanted to get the chance to chat with Fielder as the deal was being completed, but he didn't get the opportunity. Fielder is on vacation in the Bahamas and was away from his phone when Dombrowski called to let him know the trade was official. With a full voicemail inbox, the two wound up exchanging texts with Dombrowski thanking him for his time in Detroit and wishing him the best in Arlington.
The Orioles have been one of the most mentioned teams on MLBTR with the club trying to decide whether to extend or trade Matt Wieters and approaching the Cardinals about a J.J. Hardy-Shelby Miller trade. Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com weighs in on those and other topics in a "Because You Asked" column:
- The Hardy-Miller talks were just preliminary, but not unexpected because of the Orioles' quest for starting pitching and the Cardinals' need for a shortstop. Kubatko sees the O's acquiring a starter and keeping Hardy.
- Wieters is not untouchable and the Orioles are willing to trade him, but are not feverishly shopping the catcher. Financial constraints are compounding the Wieters situation, as the front office is trying to figure out how to accomodate within their budget the pursuit of free agents like Carlos Beltran and arbitration raises for Wieters and others (MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects $41.2MM for eight arbitration eligible players).
- There is no progress in negotiations with outfielder Nate McLouth. The Orioles are concerned with other clubs offering him a two-year deal. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes predicted two years and $10MM for McLouth to which a person in the Orioles organization, when asked by Kubatko late in the season, responded: "Well, he won't be getting that from us."
- Kubatko suggests the Orioles swallow hard and give McLouth a two-year contract since they did so for Wilson Betemit. If re-signed, Kubatko doesn't necessarily see McLouth as the full-time starter in left, but a valuable fourth outfielder, occasional DH, pinch-runner, and defensive replacement.
- The Orioles like Carlos Beltran and see him as a great fit; but, will have to outbid some big spending teams, which they haven't done historically.
- One option worth debating to free up payroll space for Beltran, according to Kubatko, is trading Jim Johnson and his expected $10.8MM arbitration salary. The Orioles have said they intend to keep their closer.
- Kubatko spoke with someone in the organization recently who steered him away from Scott Kazmir, as if the Orioles have no interest. The O's, however, do have interest in Tim Hudson.
- There is a definite possibility Brian Roberts will return to Baltimore. If not, Mark Ellis is on the club's radar as an alternative because he won't command a three-year deal like Omar Infante.
Though the Yankees remain the odds-on favorite to employ star second baseman Robinson Cano for the foreseeable future, GM Brian Cashman has reached out to Omar Infante as a fall-back option, report George A. King III and Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. Cashman was vague when approached for comment by the Post, and there is no reason to believe that this report indicates any change in Cano's status.
Infante, who played the last two seasons with the Tigers, is represented by Mato Sports Management. The interest from the Yanks is a second bit of good news for his open market status, since we just learned that the team signing him will not be required to give up draft pick compensation to do so. (Of course, the $14.1MM payday he could have had on a one-year deal might also have been enticing.)
The soon-to-be 32-year-old put up an excellent .318/.345/.450 line in 476 plate appearances last year, leading MLBTR's Tim Dierkes to peg his free agent value at three years and $25MM. But that number could rise if Cano bucks expectations by spurning the Yanks and signing with a team that does not have an obvious need at the keystone, leaving New York amongst the clubs vying for the market's second-best second bagger. That is probably the best case scenario for Infante, who otherwise will likely market his services to teams, like the Royals, that figure to dabble in the mid-tier market.
After introducing new manager Brad Ausmus to the press today, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski chatted with members of the media, including Chris Iott of MLive.com. Among the information he chose to reveal is that the club will not make any qualifying offers to players eligible for free agency, and does not expect to re-sign. (Twitter links.)
While none of the Detroit free agents were obvious QO candidates, there were arguments to be made for second baseman Omar Infante and perhaps shortstop Jhonny Peralta and closer Joaquin Benoit. With the news, those three (and the rest of the Tigers' free agent crop) can enter the market without being hindered by draft pick compensation.
As for Peralta, Dombrowski's apparent lack of interest in a reunion is not all that surprising, particularly given that the club dealt for his replacement (Jose Iglesias) immediately after Peralta's 50-game PED suspension. On the other hand, Peralta did return to the field for the club and has expressed interest in returning. Ultimately, it seems likely that he'd be more valuable anyway to team looking to fill a starting shortstop vacancy.
Yesterday, the Associated Press reported MLB Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred testified, during the Alex Rodriguez arbitration hearing, baseball did not concern itself if Biogenesis founder Tony Bosch distributed illegal substances to minors and was only interested in possible criminal activity involving players. Today, Manfred called the report "ridiculous" telling Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel his testimony was "totally out of context and mischaracterized" and accused the A-Rod camp of leaking the story. "The larger point is this: From our perspective, one of the reasons we pursue cases like the A-Rod case is we think players should be role models for kids," Manfred explained to Haudricourt. "It's almost comical that A-Rod, who already has admitted in the past he used steroids, would express an opinion on our stance on children and PEDs." The hearing will resume next month. In other news and notes from the American League:
- Mike Napoli's strong postseason is further proof his avascular necrosis is not an issue as he enters free agency for the second time, reports MLB.com's Lindsay Berra. Napoli was frustrated by having to settle for a one-year, $5MM deal (incentives pushed the eventual value to $13MM) after a three-year, $39MM contract was scrapped because of the AVN diagnosis. "I waited seven years for free agency and then got an opportunity, and it got taken away because of something I didn't even know I had and had never had any pain from," said Napoli. "I'm a little more confident about negotiating a contract now that I've shown all year that my hips aren't an issue, but I'm sure I'm going to have to go through all the steps again, with all the MRIs and talking to doctors."
- There are six questions the Tigers must answer this offseason, writes MLive.com's Chris Iott. Among the answers, Iott predicts Jim Leyland will return as manager, the Tigers will not re-sign Jhonny Peralta (despite his desire to remain in Detroit), but will re-sign Joaquin Benoit and Omar Infante.
- The Orioles don't have a lot of inventory to deal this winter after trading away six players in midseason acquisitions, writes Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com. Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, and Steve Johnson head the list of tradeable players, according to Dubroff.
- Nolan Ryan left his imprint on the Rangers, especially the pitching staff, with his attitude and focus on conditioning, opines Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.
- Ryan received a $10MM buyout (his ownership stake plus incentives) when he announced his retirement from the Rangers, Grant reports in separate article. However, according to Forbes, Ryan wound up losing money on his ownership investment. Ryan's original equity interest was valued at $13MM (6% ownership); but, dwindled to $7MM (1% ownership) because he declined to participate in various cash calls to cover his share of the losses the franchise incurred.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.