Reinstalled as a regular for the first time since 2005, Omar Infante has spent most of the season as a pretty big disappointment for the Marlins. Like Dan Uggla, the second baseman he was traded for over the winter, Infante got off to a horrible start, as the 2010 All-Star for the Braves hit just .251/.293/.309 during the first half.
Infante, though, has been an excellent regular since, batting .337/.379/.515 in 169 at-bats. And now the Marlins want to keep him as they open their new ballpark next year, possibly in a multiyear deal, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports.
The 29-year-old Infante is making $2.5 million this year after having his club option picked up. He’ll probably be looking to a raise to $4 million or so in order to agree to terms now.
Infante, though, does want to remain with the Marlins. After years as a utilityman, he’s been allowed to find a home at second base in Miami. Even though Infante has plenty of experience at shortstop, third base and the outfield — all places where the Marlins have been unsettled at times this year — Infante hasn’t played a game at any position other than second.
Infante isn’t as bad as he was in the first half or as good as he’s playing right now. He’s an average regular at second base still in his prime, so a multiyear deal wouldn’t be such a bad thing. At the same time, given that there’s always going to be cheap second basemen kicking around, it’s debatable whether the thrifty Marlins would be smart to commit something like $8 million to him for two years. They’re already spending $45 million on five players next year, so Infante only makes sense if they’re willing to commit to a $70+ million payroll for 2012.
Spring training is tough for players under the best of circumstances. Even in an age when players work out all year, getting back into the swing of baseball-at-full-speed is tough. Many players spend the bulk of February and March knocking off the rust and getting their timing back. Because of this — and because the games have no real stakes — it is not wise to take spring training statistics super seriously. Especially if the player in question is assured of a spot on the roster and is trying to avoid injury before the regular season arrives.
Spring training for Shohei Ohtani is doubly difficult. Not only does he have to knock the rust off from the offseason, but he (a) has to get used to a new country and language; (b) has to get to know all new teammates, coaches and, really, an entirely new baseball culture; and (c) do all of that while dealing with a media crush that hasn’t been seen in baseball since Ichiro first arrived 17 years ago. In short, Ohtani is under massive pressure and has to make massive adjustments in a short time.
With that said, neither the Angels nor Ohtani can be all that pleased with how his spring training has gone. In two actual major league exhibition games he’s allowed eight runs in two and two-thirds innings. Seven of those came on Friday when he was shelled by the Rockies in an inning and a third. If you include B-games against minor leaguers, he has allowed 17 runs on 18 hits, four of which were homers, in four games. As a hitter he’s 2-for-20.
As Jeff Fletcher of the OC Register notes, Ohtani’s peripherals are not bad, as he has struck out a lot of guys and walked very few and the average on balls in play against him has been brutal, which is not super sustainable. Bad luck and some fat pitches at a time of the year when luck doesn’t really matter and the pitches, because of the rust, are likely to be fatter than normal.
As Fletcher also notes, Nolan Arenado, who faced Ohtani on Friday, said that his stuff looked good and that he’s going to be a good big league pitcher. Ohtani and Angels officials are all striking the right notes about bad luck and adjustments, saying that they’re not worried.
I imagine they’d be worrying even less if things had gone well this spring. Unless of course this is just a professional wrestling-style work aimed at getting more of us to watch his regular season debut, in which he’ll reveal that he was sandbaggin’ all along.