Kansas City, Mo. The Kansas City Royals might have found their answer at second base.
The Royals and veteran Omar Infante reached a tentative agreement on a four-year contract Friday night, a person familiar with the negotiations told the Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the contract.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore has said throughout the offseason that upgrading at second base was a priority. Kansas City used six players at the position last season, though none did enough to make the Royals feel comfortable moving forward.
Infante, who turns 32 on Dec. 26, would stabilize second base in Kansas City for the first time in years. He hit .318 with 10 homers and 51 RBIs in 118 games for Detroit last season.
Infante received substantial interest from the New York Yankees, who were seeking a replacement for Robinson Cano. But the Yankees were hesitant to give Infante more than three years, and the Royals decided to give the versatile infielder an extra year to help seal the deal.
The Royals signed left-hander Jason Vargas to a $32 million, four-year deal in November to help replace Ervin Santana, who is likely to sign elsewhere in free agency. The deals for Vargas and Infante push the notoriously frugal Royals beyond $90 million in payroll for next season — a club record, assuming they don’t make any moves to trim salary.
Moore has said he expects payroll to be “about the same” as last season, which was roughly $82 million. But he has also said the Royals can be flexible if the right opportunity arises.
Infante played all of his games at second base for Detroit last season, but the former All-Star also has logged significant time at shortstop and third base while playing a bit in the outfield.
He’ll play the majority of his time at second base in Kansas City, where Emilio Bonifacio, Jamey Carroll, Chris Getz, Johnny Giavotella, Elliot Johnson and Miguel Tejada each tried to fill in last season. They combined to hit .243 with just four home runs.
The fallback plan for the Royals was to go into next season with Bonifacio as their primary second baseman, but he’ll likely become a utilityman now.
The Royals are certainly familiar with Infante from having watched him play for their AL Central rival Detroit. Infante came up with the Tigers in 2002, and then was traded to the Cubs and Braves before landing back in Detroit two years ago, when he helped the Tigers win an American League pennant.
Infante is batting .279 with 74 homers and 421 RBIs over his 12-year career. He’s never played more than 149 games in a season and missed more than a month last year because of an ankle injury that occurred when the Blue Jays’ Colby Rasmus slid aggressively into his leg.