KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Omar Infante walked past the visiting clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium, where he dressed so many times as a member of the Detroit Tigers, and slipped on a crisp, new Kansas City Royals jersey.
It was the latest sign of that the Royals intend to compete for the AL Central this season.
The Royals introduced their new second baseman Tuesday, one day after announcing they had agreed to a $30.25 million, four-year contract that includes a club option for 2018.
“I really got to see this team up close and I was very impressed by what they did last year,” Infante said, “and I think they’re close to taking the next step.”
Infante will make $5 million next season, $7.5 million in 2015, $7.75 million in 2016 and $8 million in 2017. His option is $10 million with a $2 million buyout, and if Infante wins Silver Slugger or is picked for the All-Star game, his salary increases by $250,000 for each remaining season.
Infante, who turns 32 next week, fills perhaps the most glaring hole that remained in the Royals lineup. KansasCity used six different options at second base last season, and none did enough to make the club feel comfortable about them in what could be a pivotal season for the franchise.
The Royals are coming off an 86-76 season, their best record since 1989, and were in contention until the final week. But with star pitcher James Shields entering the final year of his contract, the window to break through to the playoffs for the first time since 1985 may be closing soon.
That’s why the Royals have been aggressive this offseason. They’ve already sign left-hander Jason Vargas to a $32 million, four-year deal to make up for the likely loss of right-hander Ervin Santana in free agency, and traded reliever Will Smith to the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Norichika Aoki.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore said following the season that three most pressing needs were to add a starting pitcher, upgrade in the outfield and solidify the second base position.
Infante appears to be the final major item on the offseason shopping list.