KANSAS CITY -- The countdown was on for weeks, as the Royals waited for the moment they absolutely had to clear roster space, and that moment came Wednesday, as the team designated for assignment struggling second baseman Omar Infante.
"We needed a pitcher," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
And so the Royals recalled left-hander Brian Flynn from Triple-A Omaha, and essentially parted ways with Infante, 34, whose diminishing play in the field and at the plate over the past two seasons made the move inevitable.
Infante had a .552 OPS in 2015, and hit .239 this season in 39 games. And Infante hadn't started a game since June 2, the night the Royals lost a late lead to the Indians, partially because Infante once again could not turn a key double play.
Asked if that game was the final straw, Yost said, "Maybe some, but it wasn't everything.
"I don't know. He's played 15 years in the league. He's been around a long time. His range just kind of decreased. His arm strength decreased."
The emergence of rookie Whit Merrifield (batting .326 entering Wednesday) also made the decision easier.
The DFA will cost the Royals about $14 million -- Infante is owed more than half of his $7.75 million salary this season, plus $8 million in 2017 and a $2 million buyout in '18.
"It's a mistake you don't like to make," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "You don't like to spend money unnecessarily. You make these types of commitments, sometimes they don't work out. You are paid and evaluated so they will work out. It's expected to work out when you make that type of commitment.
"But again, at the end of the day, if we're going to play [Christian] Colon and we're going to play Merrifield and we've got other options, it's not fair to Omar, it's not fair to the other 24 players on the roster, it's not fair to Ned and the coaching staff, and it's not fair to our fans. And ultimately I'm accountable for those decisions."
To be fair, the Royals had no second-base answers at the end of the 2013 season. Infante, at the time, was a logical fit.
"We targeted Omar," Moore said. "We knew he was a perfect fit for what we were trying to do going forward. And he did everything for us. It just didn't turn out the way we ultimately felt it would. But he was a good player for us in 2014, and he was the right guy for us. And all of our judgments were simply that he would be a stabilizing factor for us."
Infante had a career-high 66 RBIs in 2014 and a .924 OPS in the World Series.
"He had a great year in 2014," Yost said. "I don't know if we make it to the World Series [in 2014] without him. He helped us big time."
Players inside the clubhouse said they will miss Infante.
"I learned a lot from Omar," shortstop Alcides Escobar said. "That's a really good guy on our team. One of the best teammates in this room."
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.