According to multiple published reports, the Chicago Cubs have agreed to terms with super utility man Emilio Bonifacio on a minor league contract and an invite to spring training.
This is coming after Bonifacio was granted his unconditional release by the Kansas City Royals, who avoided arbitration with the 28-year-old. The Cubs do not have to pick up any of Bonifacio’s salary from the Royals, and will be payed the league’s minimum until he lands on a major league roster.
Bonifacio, who turns 29 in April, adds a certain edge the Cubs haven’t seen since Jeff Baker or Mark DeRosa were on the team. The switch-hitting speedster can play a multitude of positions including second, short stop and third, along with all three outfield spots. Utility men like Bonifacio do not come around very often and, according to Jon Heyman, Bonifacio turned down Major League offers to sign a minor league deal with the Cubs.
It is a very realistic, and almost guaranteed, possibility that Bonifacio will make the 2014 roster unless injury or something of that nature hurts his spring. Last season he hit a combined .243/.295/.331 in 136 games with 28 stolen bases, 22 double, 3 triples and e home runs for the Blue Jays and Royals.
After being moved from Toronto to Kansas City last year, Bonifacio played in 42 games as a Royal and hit an encouraging .285/.352/.348. He brings speed, consistency and a good approach at the plate, which gets him on base.
In an article written by Brett Taylor, he mentions that if Donnie Murphy and Luis Valbuena are set to platoon at third base while Darwin Barney, Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo fill out the remaining starting infield, that leaves an open roster spot for Bonifacio to secure. It then becomes a very interesting scenario with Bonifacio coming off the bench, because if anyone struggles, speaking infield or outfield, Bonifacio will be there to pick up the slack. Not only that, it also takes pressure off young prospects Mike Olt, Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara, which can allow them to progress at their own pace.
Bonifacio adds stability to a team that desperately needs it. Not only that, he also adds experience, having been in the league since 2007. His bat is something of value being a switch hitter, but his true value comes in the field and on the base paths with 138 career stolen bases.
After playing a total of seven different positions throughout his time in the majors, Bonifacio boasts a career .977 fielding percentage, which is considered exceptional given he’s never settled in one spot. Bonifacio is most comfortable at second base, playing 165 games and posting a 10 in defensive runs saved above average (The number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made). Outfield is no stranger to Bonifacio, either, as he’s played a combined 198 games in right, center and left field with an almost perfect .992 fielding percentage.
The addition of Bonifacio produces thoughts of what the Cubs may do with Barney. He will remain the opening day starter in all estimations, but currently Bonifacio adds a certain kind of big league depth that Logan Watkins cannot. It also means that if Barney struggles, Bonifacio will be there to take over and vice versa.
For the Cubs, this season looks to be another cramp in the sides for many loyal fans, which ultimately means trades will be made once more by the July 31st deadline. Barney and Bonifacio are a part of the conversation now, and either one can fill in the gap left by the other.
All in all, this was a very good signing by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. If Bonifacio has a solid first half of the season, he could be valuable for a contender who’s desperate for depth. The Cubs are in complete control with this signing. If they like Bonifacio, they can keep him; otherwise he can be yet another precious piece traded away for prospects.
Projected position players making the opening day 25 man roster include: