On Saturday, the Royals officially announced their new deal with pitcher Bruce Chen. To make room for him, they designated utility guy Emilio Bonifacio for assignment. Although that may not seem huge, the Royals just agreed to a $3.5 million deal with Bonifacio to avoid arbitration. And he's worth every penny. Let me explain.
First of all, Bonifacio is young. The 29-year-old to be debuted just seven years ago and might still have his prime ahead of him. Second of all, he's fast. He averages 37 stolen bases per 162 games, while only being caught 10 times, including a career-high 40 stolen bases in 2011. And although he has a -8.8 career Def (Defensive Equivalent to WAR), he is versatile defensively; Bonifacio has played and started at six different positions, including all three outfield positions and every infield position besides first base and catcher.
However, the bat isn't there yet. Bonifacio has a career 79 OPS+ and a 20.4% K rate compared to just a 8.0% BB rate. His swings at 29.8% of pitches outside the strike zone and only 61.2% of pitches inside the strike zone. But, for $3.5 million, Bonifacio does not have to be a starter. He can provide depth at every position, provide speed as a pinch runner, and can play decently defensively.
Who could be interested in attempting to acquire Bonifacio? More then likely, Bonifacio will have to be acquired by trade because multiple teams should be interested. So far, nothing has been reported in a team acquiring Bonifacio, but, Mets, Yankees, and Phillies writers have all shown their interest in their respective teams acquiring the Dominican Republic native. Bonifacio could also make sense for the Dodgers, who have needed more depth in the infield this offseason.
The Royals have a few options for Bonifacio. They have 10 days to either put Bonifacio on waivers (that must be done within the first seven days), trade him, release him, or outright him to the minor leagues. Expect the last two options highly unlikely, as many teams could show interest in trying to trade for Bonifacio, which, in my opinion, will likely end up happening.
Whoever ends up acquiring Bonifacio may end up acquiring a very cheap gem which could prove a difference in big moments in the season. These are the moves that a team has to make in the offseason to really have a chance to contend for the World Series. Take good note on who acquires Bonifacio; that will be big. Count on it.