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emilio bonifacio royalsThis weekend, the Chicago Cubs signed Emilio Bonifacio to a minor league deal after he was released by the Royals. I guessed at the time that, because he’s quite a bit better than your typical minor league signing, Bonifacio was going to get a split deal that pays him better than the Major League minimum salary if he actually makes the team.

And, indeed, that is the kind of contract Bonifacio is getting, per Jon Heyman, who says Bonifacio gets a $2.5 million salary if he makes the big league team. He can also earn up to $425,000 in incentives, which is not a coincidental number: add it to the $574,000 he received from the Royals in the form of termination pay, and his total take for the 2014 season could now reach just shy of $3.5 million. That’s what he was scheduled to receive from the Royals when he was dropped. In other words, those of us who suggested that Bonifacio would be worth picking up on waivers for his $3.5 million salary weren’t all that crazy after all.

The Cubs did us one better, though, getting Bonifacio without giving up a roster spot (yet), and committing to pay him just $2.5 million only if he makes the big league roster. It’s really a fantastic deal for the Cubs, and it’s also a fine deal for Bonifacio (assuming he’s got an opt-out that allows him to pursue other options if he doesn’t make the big league team by a certain date – and, if that projects to happen, the Cubs might just trade him anyway).

As for whether Bonifacio can actually crack the roster, Cubs manager Rick Renteria sounds optimistic, telling Cubs.com that he likes the versatility and speed that Bonifacio brings to the table. Obviously Bonifacio’s chances of sticking will partly be dictated by how the starting mix in the infield shakes out. If Mike Olt claims the third base job, the Cubs might not have to carry both Luis Valbuena and Donnie Murphy, giving Bonifacio a better shot to make the team, for example. If Bonifacio looks fantastic in Spring, maybe he enters the starting conversation at second base.

But, assuming a Valbuena/Murphy tandem at third and Darwin Barney starting at second, Bonifacio will have to win a bench job. Right now, it’s fair to assume that the Cubs will carry 12 pitchers, meaning that there will be five bench spots available. One will go to George Kottaras, and one will go to Justin Ruggiano. Donnie Murphy presumptively has a spot right now, too. The other two spots will likely go to an outfielder and an infielder.

Bonifacio’s primary competition for a bench job will be other versatile types like Logan Watkins and Ryan Roberts. With an outfield mix that involves a great deal of platooning, it’s also possible that the Cubs could try to carry six outfielders, which would leave just one “infield” bench job, and Bonifacio would be competing with Valbuena/Murphy, in addition to others (Chris Valaika and Jeudy Valdez are also non-roster invitees competing for an infield job).

I tend to think, as things stand, Bonifacio is on the inside looking out when it comes to a job with the Cubs out of Spring Training. His value on the bench and on the bases – as well as the potential to generate some midseason trade value if things break right – is too great to pass on.

  • Chef Brian

    Hey Brett, what do you think Bonifacio’s chances are of supplanting Barney at 2nd if he turns in a solid spring training and Barney continues do his great defense/weak offense thing?

  • AA Correspondant

    Assuming this is true, it appears that Logan Watkins ends up drawing the short straw here. He potentially goes from making the Big League club out of spring as a utility player to now a utility man at AAA (assuming an infield of Villanueva, Baez and Alcantara at AAA) and a presumable logjam in the AAA outfield). This is disappointing because I believe Logan Watkins could be a very good major leaguer, and was hopeful that this was going to be the year he got a decent look.

    I know it is early, and a lot of things can happen in the spring, but the scenario you lay out above seems to be the direction the Cubs are heading. Where do you see Logan Watkins landing out fo spring training and in what role??

    • Jason P

      I agree. I’d like to see Watkins get a shot in a bench role. He can play the same positions Bonifacio can, and while he can’t match his speed, Watkins’ power is better.

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    It seems that having Bonafacio’s versatility could allow us to carry an extra pitcher in the rotation. Rather than carrying an extra outfielder and an extra infielder he could have a dual role. If that is the difference between a guy like Grimm to make the opening day roster as opposed to starting at AAA then I say go for it.

    • Danny Ballgame

      I would like to see Grimm start until he proves that he needs to be moved to the pen.

      • Kyle

        Too late, they already said he’s being warmed up as a reliever this spring.

  • Kyle

    It seems pretty likely, given the size of the split-deal and him reportedly turning down MLB deals elsewhere, that Bonifacio was promised a job and the split-deal is just for temporary roster purposes.

  • Javier Bryant

    I’d rather see Bonifacio over Darnell McDonald, Coghlan, Kalish, etc.

  • Baseball_Writes

    No one pats themselves on the back better than you, Brett. Ha!

    I kind of like the idea of having Bonifacio mainly because of his speed and baserunning ability, even if he does not get on base all that well. There was some talk last year about a player the Rays kept on their playoff roster. I cannot remember the name, and a Google search does not help me (probably because I am not searching it correctly). But, the point was that he wasn’t really good at any particular thing, but he was fast. And was probably only going to be used as a pinch-runner in high-leverage situations.

    I find this interesting because I kind of like the idea of having tools at hand when you need them. I go back and forth about whether or not, logically, this is worth a roster spot for a full year, though, considering the opportunity cost.

    Any thoughts?

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      Yeah Campagna and Borbon have filled that role in recent times. Having that guy available in an extra inning game to pinch run for the catcher or 1st baseman is a huge plus. But I think in this case we have a guy that has a lot more going for him that those other two had.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      So, what you’re saying is, in addition to being the best at the thing for which I’m patting myself, I’m also the best at patting myself on the back?

      The. Best.

      • DarthHater

        Also the best at interpreting comments in your favor.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          More win for me!

    • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

      When you have a playoff caliber team then having a speedster as your 25 man might be a good idea in case you really need a stolen in the playoffs, but keeping a player because he is really really fast is a horrible reason to put someone on a roster. I thought we finally understood this when discussing Campy over and over. Speed is the least important tool of the five and probably shouldn’t be a factor in most cases.

      • Baseball_Writes

        Yeah, I guess you are right about that. I guess, for me, it goes back to the value of a win. So, with a 60-70 win team, the idea of keeping a guy on the roster who might get you a two-win boost (say from 66 to 68 wins) by having one particular good skill (especially if that skill is speed) does not hold a lot of value.

        Might be more valuable if the Cubs were projteced to be, say, and 88-win team because if he got them to 90 those to wins are much more valuable; therefore, if that were his only skill he might be worth it to keep around. Maybe?

        I know that is not Bonifacio’s only skill, I was using him to create more of a hypothetical player I could use in a thought-experiment.

        • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

          Yeah I doubt a speedster will ever give you huge wins compared to the loss his bat would produce… see Campana. Now if speed is a plus to either defense or hitting then sure it has value- but not as much as I think you believe it will. Remember everyone gets throw out and that is an out you didn’t need to risk.

  • jammin502

    When Bonifacio was released, I had mentioned that he would make a lot of sense for the Cubs. One of the big factors to me is that he hits lefties fairly well, and that was a bit of a struggle last year. I would be very surprised if he was given a starting position. He holds a lot more value in a super utility role, speed off the bench, start against lefties and give others some rest, type of player. If he is in the mix then you do have the versatility to create the competition for the 25th spot to either an infielder or outfielder and not be restricted to one or the other.

  • CubsFanSaxMan

    Just like many of the current Cubs, Bonifacio will no doubt be just passing through. It is just part of the FO philosophy to “sign all the waiver players.” Throw them against the wall and see if any of them stick.

  • Coldneck

    Bonifacio can join the other spare parts fighting for a roster spot. The problem is the whole team is spare parts with the exception of few.

    • CubsFanSaxMan

      You got that right!

  • Ivy Walls

    Solid deal in that it provides flexibility until the final week of March regarding his status. That said I don’t think Olt has a bearing on Valbuena, (he is in either at 3B or 2B against RHP’ers unless he plays himself out of that role that he played himself into), I think it is the love affair Darwin Barney that Olt has a direct effect. Again I think Cubs go north for 18-20 days with 11 pitchers and 14 position players, and it appears that Roberts is competing with Murphy for the RH platoon at 2B (if Olt makes the team) and Bonifacio is the designated utility player and late game situational base runner/defender.

  • Brocktoon

    Bonifacio got termination pay? That never happens

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yeah, I’m kinds wishing we knew a little more about that – arb contracts aren’t guaranteed but I wasn’t aware that you could do what the Royals did and just pay a guy a little money to go away (as opposed to the “insufficient baseball ability” thing).

      • DarthHater

        Maybe it’s just a matter of the team paying Bonifacio a few bucks to forego pursuing a grievance. He knew he could get as good a deal elsewhere and he avoids the hassles of the grievance procedure, so why not.

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