Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Curious Case of Emilio Bonifacio

A quick Google news search for “Emilio Bonifacio” on February 11 includes such headlines as:

  • Yankees Hot Stove: What can Emilio Bonifacio offer?
  • Should the Mets Pursue Emilio Bonifacio?
  • Should the Cubs sign Emilio Bonifacio?
  • Why Emilio Bonifacio makes sense for San Francisco
  • Philles Should Target Emilio Bonifacio, and:
  • Orioles In the Mix for Emilio Bonifacio

The Royals DFA’d Bonifacio ten days ago. There seems to be plenty of interest in the uniquely talented Bonifacio, yet the club was unable to trade him. Instead, he is likely to pass through waivers and become a free agent. His recently agreed upon $3.5 million salary is not guaranteed and the Royals will be responsible for just about $575,000 when he clears. Therefore, the move saves the team some cash. However, is saving roughly $3 million worth parting with such a uncommonly skilled and valuable player?

Rumor has it Bonifacio insisted he start. This was certainly out of the question once Kansas City signed Omar Infante to play second base. If Bonifacio was unhappy with his playing time, it is possible he could create clubhouse issues. In that case, it may makes some sense to part with him - especially for team that could compete for a playoff spot and needs as few distractions as possible. Of course, Bonifacio likely would have been a big part of that playoff push and would get plenty of playing time due to his flexibility. And he would have been just one injury away from starting at as many as six positions. Show a little patience Emilio.

Bonifacio has good reason to believe he can be an every day player. In 2011, his lone season appearing in more than 130 games for one team, he hit .296/.360/.393 - all career highs. He also notched his career bests with 222 total bases, 78 runs scored, 40 stolen bases, 7 triples, 5 home runs and 36 RBI in 152 games. He spent 97 games at the top of the order and put up nice numbers there (.310/.376/.408). Even then, he was not a full-time starter at any one position. He appeared in 67 games at shortstop, 36 at third base, 32 in left field, 16 in center, 15 in right and five at second base. 

Compare those numbers to Infante’s famous 2010 season with the Atlanta Braves: While Infante had a better hitting line (.321/.359/.461) and struck out much less (62 vs. 129 for Bonifacio), he had just 132 total bases, scored 45 runs, hit 3 triples and stole just 7 bases. He played 65 games at second base, 29 at third and 18 at shortstop and added eight games in left field and five in right. Infante made the National League All-Star team as a utility man, an unheard of accomplishment, and had one of the best utility seasons in baseball history. Bonifacio could be even better.

Bonifacio still has great speed (28 SBs in 36 attempts in 2013) and is always a threat to bunt - causing the defense to play out of position. He is also a switch hitter. While Bonifacio is not a terrific fielder, the fact that he can play six positions is incredibly valuable. He can provide days off or enter as a pinch runner and stay in the game. 

To me, it seemed like a safe risk to pay $3.5 million to Bonifacio, especially for a team ready to make a move in the AL Central. Also, there are better options on the 40-man roster to part with, in my opinion. Francisley Bueno, Maikel Cleto, and Carlos Peguero are all long shots to make the Opening Day roster, and may have not been claimed. The same could be said of Pedro Ciriaco, who know seems the most likely candidate to fill Bonifacio’s role (though it is difficult to imagine he will be a better fit). I feel even younger players like Lane Adams or John Lamb would have been better options to designate. 

If the Royals had been able to swap Bonifacio for a player of some value, it would make much more sense. To DFA him and not work out a trade is downright silly.

Bias be damned. I hope the Braves sign him.

Follow me on Twitter: @NicholasIAllen

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