With tonight’s non-tender deadline approaching, the Royals have some decisions to make. They’ll have to choose which players to offer a contract to, and which ones to allow to become free agents. Those choices appear to be relatively easy ones, with all but one player figuring to be a big part of the Royals’ plans in 2014. However, with Emilio Bonifacio reportedly generating some trade interest, the team may choose to keep Chris Getz on the roster as insurance.
The absurdity of such a decision even being considered barely merits discussion.
Getz’s flaws are well-documented, and he is likely going to be making as much money in 2014 as George Kottaras, who allegedly was designated for assignment due to financial constraints. There are no rational reasons to think he could replace Bonifacio – an actual utility player – on the roster. I think the Royals make plenty of bad decisions, but even I don’t think they’ll actually follow through with what Bob Dutton’s article suggests, so I won’t spend any more time on that “possibility.” I’m far more interested in the trade market for Bonifacio.
When the Royals acquired Bonifacio in August, expectations were low. He had hit just .218/.258/.321 with Toronto. Even in 2012, Bonifacio’s .646 OPS was far from impressive. But after joining the Royals, Bonifacio looked much better, putting up a line of .285/.352/.348 in 179 plate appearances. Because of his improved performance, the Royals have been planning on having Bonifacio start at second base in 2014, unless they could find a replacement from elsewhere. They don’t appear to have much faith in Christian Colon right now, or any faith in Johnny Giavotella, so Bonifacio seemed to be the man for the job. While Bonifacio’s success in Kansas City was fueled by a higher BABIP, which could lead to regression, he is the kind of player who can sustain an above average BABIP due to his speed, as long as he’s hitting line drives and ground balls. I do think Bonifacio’s production will regress if he’s playing every day, so trading him, in theory, should definitely be considered, although there is another side to that question.
Personally, I find it tough to see a great market for a $3.3 million utility player under team control for just one more season, since players like Bonifacio – speedy guys who hit at a below average level and are just average in the field – don’t typically bring much in a trade. I suppose it is possible that some team thinks they can get enough production from Bonifacio at second base to justify trading a useful prospect to Kansas City, but that scenario seems doubtful. More likely, the Royals would only be able to get some kind of lower minors-lottery ticket-type of player, so I don’t think it would be worth it to shop Bonifacio unless some team makes a strong offer.
I don’t believe Bonifacio will be good enough to be a starting second baseman for the Royals in 2014, but I do believe having him as the super utility player would be in the team’s best interest. He offers excellent versatility defensively, since he’s mostly competent all over the diamond. While he may not be above average at the plate, he won’t be totally worthless if he’s getting a start or two each week. And if he’s on the bench, his speed can be a valuable asset in late-inning situations. Obviously paying a player over $3 million when he’s only playing in 4 games per week is not ideal for a team on a limited budget, but using him sparingly could help to prevent him from being overexposed to the point of hurting the team.
As a player already on the Royals’ roster, Bonifacio provides some value. But his ceiling isn’t much higher than what he produced over the last month and a half of the season, meaning other teams probably wouldn’t want to part with their own trade chips to acquire a slap-hitting utility man. And if the idea of shopping Bonifacio will result in the Royals tendering a contract to Getz, then I would suggest Bonifacio be taken off the trade block completely. That’s a move the Royals absolutely shouldn’t make.