Reports surfaced over the holiday weekend that Omar Infante underwent surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow.
The news was broken by Jon Morosi of Fox Sports.
The Royals, who made no announcement of Infante’s procedure at the time it occurred, are confident the surgery will alleviate the shoulder issues that hampered Infante throughout his first two seasons in Kansas City. The team believes Infante altered his throwing motion to compensate for the elbow pain, thus creating the shoulder problem.
To anyone who has watched Infante play second base the last couple of seasons, this is not a surprising revelation. His shoulder issues have been well documented since arriving in Kansas City. He missed part of his first spring training with the club with what was termed “elbow and shoulder inflammation.” The shoulder issue didn’t seem to get any better for Infante and he missed a few games here and there in 2014. He also spent time on the DL with an irritated disk in his lower back.
There was speculation he would have shoulder surgery following the Royals postseason run in 2014, but the team and Infante seemed to think his elbow and shoulder issues would subside with rest. The shoulder felt better when he opened spring training last year in Arizona, but his elbow still bothered him. And with the repetition at second base, it wasn’t soon before his shoulder started barking again.
This was a bit of a big deal because the Royals are paying Infante what for them amounts to big money. He is on the third season of a contract that totals four years and $32 million. Who felt more pain last summer? Infante playing with a bum shoulder and elbow or the Royals, who trotted out his carcass for 455 plate appearances in exchange a .552 OPS and 44 wRC+? I thought his defense was better last year (and the metrics back this up) but there’s no way any amount of defensive brilliance can cloak the stench of a .238 wOBA. According to Fangraphis, Infante was worth -0.9 fWAR in 2015, which made him the seventh worst regular in baseball last year.
In fact, the injuries hampered Infante enough the previous season, he was worth only 0.5 fWAR. This was not what the Royals were expecting. He averaged around 3.0 fWAR in his two seasons before coming to Kansas City, which was his peak output, but he was heading in to his age 32 season, and second basemen have not traditionally aged well. I’m aware of the fact the Royals have played in the World Series in each of the last two seasons, but the Infante contract was bad business from the moment the pen was put to paper. It’s simply the kind of deal a team like the Royals can’t afford to make.
If your New Year’s Resolution is to look at the positive, I suppose we should be thankful the Royals grabbed Ben Zobrist ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline. Zobrist filled the hole caused by Alex Gordon’s injury, then was able to slide over to second once Gordon returned. From August 28 to the end of the season, Infante made only six starts. An oblique injury suffered in mid-September assured he would miss the entire postseason run. The right move all along would have been to either bench Infante or keep him off the roster entirely. His injury prevented the Royals from having to make that decision. Injuries, injuries. That’s the real story of the Omar Infante era in Kansas City.
Infante will have the opportunity to redeem himself in 2016, but that’s only because at this point with $18 million left on his contract, he’s the immoveable object in the Royals middle infield. If he can stay healthy.