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So far this offseason, the Royals have expressed interest in reuniting with several of their former players. They’ve already been connected to Ervin Santana, Luke Hochevar, and of course, Billy Butler. It now appears they are considering bringing back their old utility player, Emilio Bonifacio.
Bonifacio came to the Royals late in the 2013 season, and he performed well, hitting .285/.352/.348 in 179 plate appearances, while playing multiple positions and providing value on the basepaths. The Royals signed him to a contract for 2014, but in a bizarre turn of events, ended up paying him to go away.
There’s no question that the front office could have handled the end of Bonifacio’s tenure better, even if the decision to cut ties with him may have had some merit. There were rumors that Bonifacio was not interested in a part-time role, and that he could be a problem in the clubhouse. He also was set to make more than $3 million to occupy that part-time role, so the Royals likely weren’t too comfortable paying that much money to a utility player.
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I’m not sure if the Royals have totally changed their minds on Bonifacio, but they are rumored to have interest in him. He’s coming off a poor offensive season in which he had just an 81 wRC+ in 426 plate appearances for the Cubs and Braves. However, he also stole 26 bases and played solid defense all over the field, so he still was a valuable player, well worth his salary.
It’s somewhat questionable that the Royals would be serious about bringing Bonifacio back, particularly considering the presence of Christian Colon, who can do most of the things Bonifacio can do for a fraction of the money. Colon doesn’t have as much speed, and he can’t play the outfield, but his offense overall is superior to Bonifacio’s, and again, the finances cannot be ignored.
With so many teams interested in the super-utility man, his cost is likely going to be in the seven-figure range, possibly for multiple years. Skip Schumaker signed a 2-year, $5 million contract with the Reds last year, so you’re looking at that as a baseline for what it will take to sign Bonifacio.
I don’t want to make it sound like Bonifacio wouldn’t be a decent pickup. He’s got great speed, positional versatility, and the ability to hit left-handed pitching. He had a 170 wRC+ against lefties in 2014, and a 97 wRC+ against them in his career, meaning he could give the lineup a bit more balance. But I’m not totally sold on the idea of paying too much money for that, when there are other pressing needs on the roster. They need a couple of bats and a starting pitcher before they need to worry about a utility player.
If the Royals do seriously pursue Bonifacio, it probably would work out, because of the way he can impact the game. But for the time being, they should focus their efforts on bolstering their everyday lineup, knowing that if Bonifacio signs elsewhere, they have a solid replacement who is already on their 40-man roster, in Colon.