The Kansas City Royals have been active in their early preparations for the 2014 season. One of the largest questions yet to be answered remains in the middle of the infield. The team continues to search for a notable upgrade at second base, and Omar Infante is one of the most attractive free-agent targets on the open market.
The problem for the Royals looms in the consistent presence of the evil empire also known as the New York Yankees.
Earlier in the offseason, the Royals set their sights on outfielder Carlos Beltran. Adding Beltran's veteran bat to the current roster would have drastically improved the look of the Royals lineup. Their offer, which Jon Heyman reports was for three years and over $40 million, was not accepted, as Beltran joined the Yankees.
#royals tried hard for Beltran, offering 3 yrs for $40M-plus. Knew they'd have hard time beating yanks for CB. Nice try tho— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 8, 2013
The Royals are now reportedly turning their attention to Infante. The former Detroit Tigers second baseman would improve the Royals at the keystone position and would bring a consistent hitter with occasional power to a lineup that features a lot of speed. Infante played in only 118 games last season for Detroit but posted an impressive .318 batting average while driving in 51 runs and producing a .450 slugging percentage. The various Royals that played second base in 2013 produced a paltry .243 batting average and .304 slugging percentage.
Infante would be a substantial upgrade and is the top of the free-agent class at his position. That will raise his price tag, which never bodes well for the Royals.
The news for the Royals does not improve when it comes to Infante. Due to the Seattle Mariners' signing of Robinson Cano, the Yankees are in the market for a second baseman and will likely be inquiring about the services of Infante themselves. Heyman sees another showdown on the near horizon between the Royals and Yankees, as he notes on Twitter:
#royals will try again to beat yanks on omar infante. should be strong market. also an uphill battle for kc.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 8, 2013
The Yankees are known for throwing large amounts of money at free-agent targets and keeping mid-market teams like the Royals from being able to compete. Fans hoping the Royals can come out on top with Infante should note that the Royals' reported offer to Beltran was not far from the amount he ultimately signed for in New York. There is no reason to believe that their pursuit of Infante would be any different.
The reports of interest by the Royals in Infante and Beltran show that the team is ready to build on last season's winning record. The team appears ready to win and ready to invest in that goal in 2014. Kansas City has shown a hunger for winning baseball and may be on the verge of a playoff run this season, if management continues to be aggressive.
The Royals and Yankees seem set to continue their off-field battle throughout this offseason. Royals fans are hoping to find a productive second baseman under their Christmas tree when the battle is over.
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Statistics in this article are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.