The word of the year 2013 for the Oakland Athletics was, platoons. Throughout the entire lineup there were interchangable parts that would be swapped in and out depending on the opposing starting pitcher. Some times those parts would be swapped during the middle of the game if a pitching change was made that didn’t favor the platoon splits for the Athletics. On a purely numbers basis, this strategy should work. Putting your players in the best possible positions to succeed is the motive, but there are major flaws there when the players being put in those positions simply aren’t up to the challenge.
This was seen more than anywhere at second base. Eric Sogard played the bulk of the innings at second base this year from the left side, and the combination of Scott Sizemore, Adam Rosales, Grant Green, and Alberto Callaspo occupied the other half of the platoon throughout the season. Overall, the production from the second base position was lacking, and it’s something that needs to be addressed.
Personally, I feel the platoon system is valid in situations when you don’t have a single player who is good enough to play everyday. A team with not only playoff aspirations, but World Series aspirations as well, should not settle for players like that. Filling the lineup with quality everyday players should be the goal for the Athletics.
At second base, an option for the A’s is there for the taking, and he is well within their reach. Omar Infante has been a stable presence in the potent Detroit Tigers lineup for the last couple years since being brought back to Detroit from the Marlins, and with the recent acquisition of Ian Kinsler, is without a home. Infante was a free agent anyway, and that trade all but sealed that his time in Detroit was over.
Infante posted a very good .318/.345/.450 line in 476 plate appearances and played above average defense. His right handed bat would be a welcome addition to the Athletics lineup. He makes a lot of contact as well, striking out just 44 times in 2013. An addition like Infante would free up another roster spot, likely Eric Sogard’s, and allow Billy Beane to address another need on the team with that spot. Nick Punto will serve as the primary backup all around the infield, so someone like Sogard may not be needed. It remains to be seen what role Alberto Callaspo would have in this scenario, but he’s proven to be a useful piece of the puzzle.
MLBTradeRumors.com predicted Infante to receive a three-year contract worth $25MM. With Chris Young, Grant Balfour, and Bartolo Colon all potentially coming off the books, the A’s should be able to afford a contract of that size. Even with some salary bumps for arbitration eligible players, this isn’t too big of a financial risk. Infante is now 32 years old, and for a player of his type age shouldn’t be too much of a factor. He’d be 34 at the end of a three-year deal.
The division rivals are making moves to attempt to close the gap with the A’s, and now is not the time to get complacent and hope to continue to ride the success of last season. Bringing in Omar Infante would be the first step in maintaining their hold on the AL West.