What Omar Infante Deal Means for Short-Term Plans for Royals, Yankees

Ely SussmanCorrespondent IDecember 13, 2013

USA Today

The Kansas City Royals exacted their revenge on the New York Yankees, according to ESPN's Buster Olney, by outbidding them for second baseman Omar Infante. They agreed to terms Friday on a four-year, $30 million deal.

Olney visualizes the Royals' potential Opening Day lineup, which is about as menacing as any you'll see from a small-market team:

The Royals' projected lineup: Aoki RF, Infante 2B, Gordon LF, Butler DH, Hosmer 1B, Perez C, Cain CF, Moustakas 3B, Escobar SS. Pretty good.

— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 13, 2013

But this doesn't mean that their offseason work is complete. And rest assured, the Yankees don't intend to hibernate through the rest of the winter, either.

Let's consider how the Infante signing will influence the conduct of these playoff hopefuls between now and the start of the 2014 season.

 

What's Next for Kansas City?

The player in the Royals organization who's most directly affected by the Infante news is Christian Colon.

Infante blocks Colon's path to the majors.
Infante blocks Colon's path to the majors.Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The 24-year-old was added to the 40-man roster in November, via Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star, to protect him from being taken in the Rule 5 Draft. He slashed .273/.335/.379 through 131 games at Triple-A last summer. Assistant general manager J.J. Picollo referred to Colon as a second baseman with the potential to be a "very steady, everyday player" at the major league level.

How's he going to get that opportunity with Infante under contract through 2017?

Presumably by changing teams.

The versatile Emilio Bonifacio, who has substantial MLB experience in both the infield and outfield, now slides into the utility role that Colon was hoping to compete for in spring training.

Royals general manager Dayton Moore could use Colon as the centerpiece of a package for a controllable starting pitcher. Although Moore inked left-hander Jason Vargas to a $32 million deal in November, he's not expected to individually replace Ervin Santana's production.

Completing a signing of this magnitude could also be an indication that Billy Butler is getting dealt. The All-Star slugger is owed $8 million in 2014, plus there's a 2015 club option worth $12.5 million ($1 million buyout).

Butler hogs the designated hitter's spot on a daily basis, and that type of player has gradually become less popular around the American League. Moore even admits to Dutton that he'd like to rotate several players using the DH rule.

Either way, change seems imminent.

 

What's Next for New York?

Phillips has four years and $50 million left on his deal.
Phillips has four years and $50 million left on his deal.Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Reds approached the Yankees about a Brandon Phillips trade during the winter meetings, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman.

They rejected it.

Now, this Infante development could send Bombers general manager Brian Cashman begging to get his seat back at the negotiating table. That's because beyond Phillips, there don't appear to be any potentially available second basemen who are definitively better than New York's own Kelly Johnson.

The Atlanta Braves' Dan Uggla is a year older than Phillips, owed more annually for the remainder of his contract, inferior with the glove and coming off a summer in which his strikeout total (171) nearly matched his batting average (.179). Free agent Brian Roberts never ceases to find new ways to sustain significant injuries. Mark Ellis is the oldest of them all—turns 37 in June—and although very effective in the field, he's not a steady source of power, speed or durability.

The Yankees have been eyeing Tanaka since the regular season.
The Yankees have been eyeing Tanaka since the regular season.Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

On the bright side, settling for Roberts or Ellisor ignoring the second-base market entirelyencourages the Yankees to pursue top-tier free-agent starting pitching. Masahiro Tanaka appears to be the top priority, but Ervin Santana, Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez also compare favorably to the question marks currently filling out the back end of the club's projected rotation.

The New York Post conveniently monitors the Yankees' 2014 payroll to show how much wiggle room they have left before exceeding the $189 million luxury-tax threshold.

Here's how they're shaping out:

Projected 2014 Payroll, New York Yankees
ChargeCost
Players Under Contract$157.3 million
Arbitration-Eligibles$14.8 million (Projected)
Insurance, Pensions, etc.$11 million (Approximated)
In-Season Minor-League Call-Ups$5 million (Approximated)
Total$188.1 million
New York Post and MLB Trade Rumors

Looks like the Yankees have maxed out, right?

Keep in mind, however, that the signings of Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran have given them a surplus of outfielders. Unless an injury occurs early in spring training, either Brett Gardner, Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki or Vernon Wells will depart prior to the regular season.

And how could we forget about the Alex Rodriguez saga? If his 211-game suspension holds, there will be another $27.5 million removed from their books. Even a reduction to 50 or 100 games would enable Cashman to acquire one of the aforementioned arms.

Missing out on Infante was certainly a disappointment for the Yankees, but they won't dwell on it for long.

 

Ely is a national MLB Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and a sportscaster for 90.5 WVUM in Miami. He wants to make sweet, social love with all of you on Twitter.