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contractAccording to multiple reports, the Chicago Cubs have signed utility man Emilio Bonifacio to a minor league deal. I know I frequently fawn over minor league deals (because of their no-risk nature, not because I think they’ll all pan out into something useful), but this is just fantastic, if true. We’ll wait for the Cubs to confirm, however. (UPDATE: They’ve confirmed. Neat.)

Bonifacio, 28, was recently a surprise DFA and release by the Royals after agreeing to a $3.5 million deal for 2014, his final year of arbitration. When he became available for any team to grab, I endorsed the Cubs going after him, which would have meant the Cubs picking up the full contract. The Cubs were able to get him on a minor league deal, which I guess that makes me one part smart and one part dopey.

On a minor league deal, though, you can be assured of a couple things: (1) it’ll almost certainly be a split deal where he makes a minor league salary when in the minors, and a big league salary (higher than the Major League minimum) when he’s at the big league level (I’m assuming, by the way, that when he was released by the Royals, he received termination pay, rather than his full contract because he was an arb guy); and (2) he’ll probably have an opt-out date if he hasn’t been called up, and it could be pretty early in the year. In other words, my guess is that the Cubs got Bonifacio on a deal that allows them to not have to give up a 40-man spot just yet, pays Bonifacio reasonably well if he makes the team, and allows him to easily go elsewhere if he doesn’t make the team.

A little background on Bonifacio and his potential value to the Cubs:

And, for the record, Bonifacio could theoretically help the Cubs, too. Let’s imagine that Mike Olt does not win the third base job, and Luis Valbuena and Donnie Murphy are set to platoon there. That would leave an open infield gig on the bench, which could be filled by a minor league deal/non-roster invitee type, by Logan Watkins, or by someone like Bonifacio. Just two years ago, Bonifacio was a 2.8 win player for the Marlins, and put up a .296/.360/.393 line (albeit with a BABIP about 40 points higher than his career average). He was fairly meh in 2012 and 2013 (though he did tick up after a trade to the Royals halfway through 2013).

But little of Bonifacio’s value is going to come from his bat. Bonifacio is a true utility player, who can literally play anywhere on the field besides pitcher and catcher (though he hasn’t had occasion to play first base, he certainly could). That kind of versatility deepens a bench, which could be a further bonus on a team like the Cubs, which is looking to carry as many fringy, try-them-out-and-see-what-happens type players (particularly in the outfield) as possible. Bonifacio also runs the bases particularly well.

Bonifacio, a switch-hitter, is a borderline starting-caliber second baseman, who was a fantastic starting second baseman for a year and a half out of the last three years. (To be quite fair, though, for his career, he’s hit just .262/.322/.340, so he’s not a world-beater.)

Bringing in Bonifacio accomplishes many things:

1.) Provides a quality bench option with excellent versatility and speed;

2.) Provides big league-caliber depth behind Darwin Barney, besides Logan Watkins and Ryan Roberts (or Luis Valbuena/Donnie Murphy when they aren’t starting);

3.) Provides legitimate competition for the starting second base job, though Barney remains the presumptive starter;

4.) Provides cover if the Cubs should try to move Barney in the near-term;

5.) Provides a buffer if there are injuries in the infield and the Cubs don’t want to be forced to rush someone like Javier Baez or Arismendy Alcantara; and

6.) Provides the Cubs with another piece that could accumulate trade value by the Trade Deadline.

On that last one, Bonifacio is definitely better than your typical minor league signing, and, with some past success in the big leagues and a quality first half, he really could be of value to teams in contention looking for infield depth or looking for an emergency injury replacement.

This is about as good as minor league signings get. (UPDATE: And Jon Heyman drives the point home – Bonifacio took the Cubs’ minor league deal over Major League deals elsewhere.)

  • IndyCubsFan

    Apparently, Tanaka can’t run worth a crap. No wonder he went to the American League!

  • Funn Dave

    Dammit, I’ve officially been converted. When I type a “C” into my browser, I now get charter.com instead of cubs.com. Congratulations, Brett. You can retire happy now.

  • Blackhawks1963

    Bonafacio is a bad hitter and a bad glove. But heh, he’s “versatile” and can run.

    Sigh.

    • ChiMike702

      He is a mediocre fielder sure but having one guy that can play serviceable defense virtually anywhere in the field does have some value. Having a burner off the bench has some value too.

      At least he’s a better bat than Barney!

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Also, anybody who can play serviceable defense anywhere probably can play very good defense at one or more position *if* he quits spending time at the other positions. Fielding skills do represent a good possible case of “Jack of All Trades, Master of None” simply because players get finite time to field live balls and time taking grounders at 2nd is time you cannot spend shagging flyballs in LF.

  • FFP

    Good for the Yankees that they won’t be asking Tanaka to jog in from the bullpen.http://sports.yahoo.com/news/tanaka-struggles-running-spring-training-015321333–mlb.html

  • Javier Bryant

    Will putting Fujikawa on the DL open up a roster spot for Bonifacio?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      If he makes the team, sure.

  • Ivy Walls

    Perspective thoughts:

    I read here and other places how fans (short for fanatics, or those in the stand and not directly active in the field of play) interpret moves like this one) in short often fans self-important, as well as, sportswriters (who possess a decidedly ulterior materialistic agenda, but one based on the intriguing fanatic story angle) rarely understand the viewpoint of the player and team management.

    That viewpoint starts with the unstated but overarching component that COMPETITION for playing time is the greatest motivator to improve performance of the individual and team. (Often this brutal concept is transferred to the social systems which is a mistake for society at-large but in highly competitive sports be it Olympics, collegiate level or for profit franchise league level (in a way all are professional), INDIVIDUAL COMPETITION for playing time is the primary ingredient, especially a younger developing participate focus on improving their game. Bob Knight told me when we were discussing previous IU teams that failed to fully achieve their goals he said that at times he was limited to how he could bring on player to a higher level when their competitor for playing time was injured or had left.

    The only power a coach (or baseball manager) has is giving permission or assigning a player when and where their playing time is. Bonifacio serves that in spades, he comes to camp (along with two or three others) without a MLB-level spot, not even 40-man, while there are two or three others on the 40-man not on the expectant 25-man competing for playing time at two or three spots.

    Competition will clear the senses and if the Cubs coaches and management are true to this concept the best players will emerge and then the management will have to explore options as to whom to discard, and those who can be kept.

    Our fan conjecture aside has no basis on performance that will take place in two weeks or so.

    For example Cubs have Valaika, Roberts and now Bonofacio all competing for a spot on the 25-man roster and playing there, while they have Valbuena, Murphy and Barney as hold overs from last year’s roster, all of the above having MLB experience plus…Olt who had a cup of coffee and is trying to reclaim his promising potential. Then there is the elephant in the room called Castro.

    There are only so many innings, so many AB’s and three game time positions and potentially two or three bench-role playing positions.

    Therefore this is a drama down the line. I think if we were in some imaginary conference room like in the movie Money Ball with the team’s scouts and decision makers they would love it if Olt had a month where he hit .275/.330/.579 and forced them to make a decision. That at 2nd base Barney returned to his 2012 numbers and was relegated to a platoon role with Valbuena and one or two of the others (all who can still play SS) had a strong spring. That all of the above were also looking over their shoulders at Alcantara, Baez and Bryant.

    A fan’s affection to a particular player is natural but in the grand scheme of things, a fan could care less whose name is on the back of the uniform as long as the player on the field performs, that is the same for team management and sportswriters—except when material considerations come into play.

    For sportswriters if unexpected or surprises arise, it is a boring storyline for them, for they like to get into the personal stuff, it is why there are so many stupid questions as to “what were you thinking”, “how do you feel”. etc. If any of you had competed in real competition you don’t feel anything, you are either elated you won or devastated you lost, one validates everything you did up to that point the other validates you didn’t do enough to overcome the competition. As for thinking I once told a stupid sportswriter, I was thinking how I was going to sink that putt, that was all.

    Now management has the complicated issue of profit/loss which is more a by product. But they and you really could care less who hits the HR or strikes out the opposition or makes that defensive play, as long as it is done.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Hey, it might mean “Fanatic” for you: it means “Fantastic” for me, baby!

      • Ivy Walls

        Fan up whatever, the term was created in the first part of the 20th Century to describe how those in the stands were fanatical about their team. The best thing that has happened in the last 20 years is the educated sabermetric fanatic, it has done more to break the idea that story writers in the name of sports writers are not the high priest of sports information

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