Yankees Free Agent Target: Omar Infante

Omar Infante won't hurt you at the plate. - Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

In what could be a very difficult off-season for the Yankees to navigate, Infante’s versatility would provide insurance all over the field.

Recently, the rumor hot stove has been burning with potential backup plans for the Yankees. The focus has been on Robinson Cano and the risk he signs to play the keystone somewhere else. One of those stories suggests the Yankees have discussed plans concerning free agent Omar Infante. While not the flashiest of possible additions to the team, Infante possesses an intriguing list of skill sets that might make him a very good fit in New York next year.

While the attention right now is on the Yankees most important position player, there might be a bigger need that Infante could fill. Third base for the Yankees in 2013 was a massive sink hole of production. Alex Rodriguez couldn't start the season due to injury, and his initial fill-in, Kevin Youkilis, quickly fell, starting at the hot-corner for only 20 games. Jayson Nix probably can be tagged as having the largest portion of duties at third base last year, and while his defensive production is satisfactory, his 70 wRC+ is not. The big problem here is the Yankees have no certainty regarding what Rodriguez's availability will be next year if at all. Given the options at third this year from the free agent pile, it might be Infante's versatility here that could prove most valuable to the Yankees.

Infante has primarily been a second baseman in his career, starting 707 games there, but he's filled in all around the field, including third for 63 starts. He has also started 188 games at short and 67 in the outfield, but neither since 2010. This versatility, however, might make it advantageous for the Yankees to sign him early. Obviously, if Cano leaves, then he slots into his normal position, but he can also be used at third.

The available third base free agent crop is not very inspiring, and Infante could be considered one of the most attractive players to fill third base, compared to the rest of the field. Here's the list of the top candidates sorted by wRC+, and their numbers over the last two years:

Name

Age

PA

wOBA

wRC+

WAR

Eric Chavez

36

567

0.353

121

2.4

Mark Reynolds

30

1042

0.323

102

0.3

Kevin Youkilis

34

627

0.321

98

0.7

Juan Uribe

34

605

0.308

97

5.2

Wilson Betemit

32

386

0.316

96

0.3

Michael Young

37

1216

0.308

90

(1.8)

Mark DeRosa

38

337

0.303

87

(0.4)

Nick Punto

36

526

0.290

83

2.4

Jerry Hairston

37

493

0.285

80

0.2







Omar Infante

32

1064

0.326

103

6.0

Infante stands out for a few reasons. He's one of the younger players on this list. He is only one of three players to get near full-time plate appearances over the last two years. He is also only one of three players to hit for a wRC+ over 100. On a WAR basis he leads the field. Out of this group I'd say he's the most attractive candidate. When you include his positional versatility into the discussion, then his potential value as a Yankee next year improves significantly.

While Infante has never been fantastic, but he has been productive from year-to-year. His last four seasons and career figures suggest a marked improvement over what the Yankees received last year from their rotation at third.

Omar Infante

PA

wOBA

wRC+

WAR

2010

506

0.343

111

2.1

2011

640

0.306

89

2.1

2012

588

0.310

92

2.9

2013

476

0.346

117

3.1

Career

4519

0.315

92

14.2

The situation regarding Rodriguez's availability next year is a huge problem. There aren't many options available to fill that spot from the free agent pool. Mark Reynolds was a nice late season addition to the Yankees last year, and he would bring a significant improvement in offensive production. However, his defense would be best suited for a first base assignment at most. The best alternatives are much more defense-oriented with limited offensive value, or have reached the age that they can't be counted on to assume a full-time role. Infante can provide a solution at multiple positions if needed. If the Yankees wind up with both Rodriguez and Cano, then Infante could fill a super-sub type of position similar to how Chone Figgins was utilized in his better years playing for the Angels. An aggressive move to sign Infante now makes a lot of sense for the Yankees given the number of holes they could wind up with. Infante could also help man the shortstop position. Considering Derek Jeter's age and 2013 season, it would seem a good idea to have a backup plan better than Eduardo Nunez.

Infante doesn't have the make-up to be a savior, but when so many positions produced such negative value last year, he at least presents a higher likelihood of delivering league-average production out of a number of different positions on the field. He doesn't get a lot of respect in general, which might signal a potential bargain if you believe in Fangraph's crowdsourcing project. This might not sound like a ringing endorsement, but the Yankees could do a lot worse than having Infante as a full-time player somewhere in the infield. Getting better production out of this free agent crop is likely to be difficult.

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