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The Omar Infante problem

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Omar comin'? Not lately.

That's about right.
That's about right.
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Remember Tony Peña, Jr.?

In his only season in which he warranted playing time for a full season, the son of the former Royals' manager (and Possible nevernude) Tony Peña, Jr. played surprisingly serviceably for a terrible Royals team.

Propped up by a sterling defensive season, TPJ was a 1.3 fWAR player. The qualifier of "sterling" is pertinent because it took being the seventh-best defensive player in all of baseball in 2007 (at least in terms of the defensive component of fWAR that year) to be worth just 1.3 fWAR. Granted, when incorporating DRS instead of UZR when calculating his value, Peña was worth 1.8 rWAR, but regardless of WAR calculation Pena was still a below-average player in his best year despite playing spectacular defense at the position in which such a performance would have held his value afloat despite sub-standard offensive performance.

In that "good" year in which Tony Peña, Jr. was worth 1.3 fWAR or 1.8 rWAR, the defense-only shortstop had a triple-slash of .267/.284/.356 and a 63 wRC+ and .280 wOBA. His value was almost entirely the result of the fact that he played premium defense at the position in which that defense was most valuable.

By the time 2008 rolled around, Peña was so abysmal at the plate as to have warranted near-immediate replacement. In 235 PA, Peña's -8 (!) wRC+ was so awful as to have counter-balanced his decent defensive performance into a -1.7 fWAR/rWAR campaign. A 27-year-old rookie who signed for a $1,000 signing bonus when drafted in the seventh round of the 2003 draft named Mike Aviles unseated Peña as the starting shortstop after Peña spent the first 53 games of the season slashing .155/.177/.193. Aviles's performance justified the unseating, but Peña's traumatic output left an imprint upon the Royals' fanbase that would not soon be forgotten.

Since agreeing to terms on a four-year, $30.2MM deal heading into the 2014 season, Omar Infante has been disappointing to be sure, but 2015 has seen him reach personal lows not seen since his replacement-level 2005 season. The 33-year-old second baseman is slashing .238/.248/.340 with a .253 wOBA and a 57 wRC+. Just as in 2005, Infante is producing at replacement value, worth precisely 0.0 fWAR to date.

To put it another way, Infante is hitting at Tony Peña, Jr. levels while providing just enough defensive value to not dip into the sub-replacement level zone.

In fact, Infante is rapidly approaching the Chris Getzian levels of production that precipitated the rash of dumpster-diving moves that included "trading" cash for cast-offs Jamey Carroll and Emilio Bonifacio, signing reclamation project Miguel Tejada, and giving significant playing time to Player-to-be-Named-Later Elliot Johnson (176 PA with a 20 wRC+).

Of course, Chris Getz just had one season with a sub-60 wRC+, the one that saw him relinquish the role of de facto starting second baseman.

When one takes into consideration the fact that Infante was dealing with a two-year-long bone spur issue in his elbow that as of March 15 (per this article from MLB.com's Jeffrey Flanagan) was possibly going to require surgery at the end of the season, the returns from continuing to scrawl Infante's name across the lineup card diminish so much as to require a high-powered microscope to see them.

Whether Infante's injury is the root of his poor performance is immaterial. Age doesn't tend to treat second basemen well. It could be that Infante's days of being a productive player are behind him.

What is clear is that the Royals are in the midst of a second straight season in which Infante is a black hole at the bottom of the batting order.

There is one potential factor that can be eliminated. The bone spurs could be cleaned up with the surgery that Infante said he was considering. At this point, there is no sense in waiting to go under the knife. The Royals can put Infante on the 60-day disabled list, let Christian Colon have a crack at second, and if worse comes to worst, Dayton Moore can trade for a stopgap second baseman.

Hell, Chris Getz probably still has his glove and could manage a walk and a single every two series--Infante's output versus the Cardinals and Yankees.