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Royals bring versatile Infante into the fold

Kansas City, infielder finalize four-year deal worth more than $30 million

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals announced the signing of second baseman Omar Infante on Monday. The deal is for four years and includes a club option for 2018. 

Kansas City formally introduced Infante in a news conference on Tuesday morning at Kauffman Stadium.

The deal is worth more than $30 million. That's a big raise for Infante, who earned $4 million last season with Detroit.

"We've admired Omar for a long time," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said on Tuesday. "He's always been a winning, championship-type player. We obviously wanted to improve and upgrade at second base, and we've had our eye on him from the very beginning. … It's exciting that he's going to be part of our organization for the next four years."

The Royals apparently outbid the Yankees for Infante's services. The Yankees reportedly offered a three-year deal at $24 million. That would serve as some payback for the Royals, who a week ago lost a battle for outfielder Carlos Beltran with the Yankees.

The addition of Infante fills one of the Royals' offseason goals of solidifying second base and puts the incumbent, Emilio Bonifacio, in line to become the team's super-utility player in the infield and, if needed, the outfield.

"I had the opportunity to see this team this year," Infante said. "They were doing great this year. Already I'm liking it. … They've got a great energy to play. I'm really happy to sign here."

Infante, who spent the past 1 1/2 years with the Tigers, is coming off one of his best offensive seasons. The 31-year-old hit .318 with a career-best .795 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage). His batting average was just three points shy of his career-best .321 mark from his 2010 All-Star season.

Though primarily a second baseman, Infante also has logged time at shortstop, third base and all three outfield positions during his 12-year big league career. His versatility, though, will be an added bonus with the Royals set at shortstop (Alcides Escobar) and third base (Mike Moustakas).

With Eric Hosmer at first base, the Royals' infield seems set for the 2014 season. Ditto for the outfield, with Alex Gordon in left, Lorenzo Cain in center and newly acquired Norichika Aoki in right. All-Star Salvador Perez is behind the plate and Billy Butler is the designated hitter.

Infante represents the Royals' third major acquisition of the offseason. They traded for Aoki, giving up left-hander Will Smith to Milwaukee, and signed starting pitcher Jason Vargas to a four-year, $32 million deal.

The Royals had been looking for an impact bat for the lineup, and Infante just might fill that bill, too. For his career, Infante is a .279 hitter with 74 home runs and a .721 lifetime OPS with the Tigers, Braves and Marlins.

The right-handed hitter is expected to be slotted into the No. 2 spot in the batting order between Aoki at leadoff and Hosmer, both left-handed hitters. In the 4-5-6 slots, in no set order, are likely to be Butler (right-handed), Gordon (left-handed) and Perez (right-handed). It gives manager Ned Yost the ability to go left-right-left, a commodity that he likes.

In the second spot of the order, Infante has a .279 average, same as his career mark.

The Royals also feel that Infante gives them a fine-fielding second baseman to fit into an already-strong defensive alignment that has three Gold Glove winners (Perez, Hosmer and Gordon) and two others who were nominated (Escobar and Cain).

Infante is regarded as having good range to his left and makes quick throws on the double play. This year he had 10 errors in 509 chances. He was limited to 118 games with the Tigers, missing from July 4 to Aug. 12 with a left ankle injury.

In the clubhouse, he is considered an underrated but strong leader for youngsters, especially the Latino players.

"He's a winner. He's got a great heart to play and a great head for the game," said Moore. "He's going to mean a lot for the interior part of our defense."

Infante started his career with the Tigers in 2002, but in the winter of 2007, he was traded twice -- to the Cubs and then to the Braves. In the offseason before the 2011 season, the Braves dealt him to the Marlins. And at midseason 2012, the Marlins sent him back to the Tigers.

In 2010, he was named to the National League All-Star team and his .321 mark for the Braves was third-best in the NL. He played in the 2006 and 2012 World Series with the Tigers. In the fourth game against the Giants in 2012, he sustained a broken left hand when hit by a pitch.

A native of Venezuela, he lives in Lecheria.

Will this be the last major deal for the Royals? There has been speculation that a trade of Butler was discussed, and if that were to happen, that free-agent slugger Nelson Cruz might be signed. That scenario is not likely.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for
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