There is no denying that second base was a mess for the Royals last season for most of the year. Chris Getz, Miguel Tejada and Johnny Giavotella were simply not getting the job done, performing at such a low level that Emilio Bonifacio, who was hitting .218/.258/.321 for the Blue Jays actually seemed like an upgrade. Lo and behold, Bonifacio actually was an upgrade, as he hit at a .285/.352/.348 rate for the Royals, providing offensive competence from a position where it had been sorely lacking. In fact, Bonifacio performed well enough where it was thought that he could end up as the Royals starting second baseman next season.
Those thoughts went out the window with the signing of Omar Infante yesterday. Despite the production that Bonifacio provided the Royals last season in his 47 games, Infante has outperformed Bonifacio over his career. Infante is also a solid defensive player, while Bonifacio, despite his versatility, has been below average everywhere he has played on the diamond. For a team that may need to rely upon their pitching staff to help them win games in 2014, having Infante at second could be a major benefit.
But what of Emilio Bonifacio then? Eligible for salary arbitration, he is expected to receive approximately $3 Million through the arbitration process. Would the Royals be willing to spend that type of money on someone that would essentially be the tenth man on the team? Could he be a piece they look to part ways with in an effort to save some money?
Moving Bonifacio to save a few bucks is not the type of move that contending teams do. With the Royals having designs on contending for the playoffs next season, having a player that can slot around the diamond in case of injury and play at an acceptable level is key. Bonifacio can also serve as a pinch runner if the situation arises, with his exceptional speed being another asset that the Royals could exploit.
Another reason to keep Bonifacio is that he could potentially push Mike Moustakas if Moustakas does not develop. Should he continue to make adjustments at the plate and be the disappointment that he has been thus far in his career, Bonifacio could end up getting more time at third while the Royals send the message that it is time for Moustakas to actually show more than flashes of offense at the major league level. If nothing else, Bonifacio is likely to play three to four times a week, giving players a day off while adding another element of speed to the lineup.
While the signing of Omar Infante moves Emilio Bonifacio out of the starting lineup, he can still fill an important role on the Royals next season. Having an insurance policy at four or five different positions for the anticipated $3 Million price tag that he would carry is a bargain. Hopefully, the Royals front office realizes that.