Last year, with only an hour or so to spare before the July 31 Trade Deadline, all eyes – well, Cub-related eyes, anyway – were on two tradable pieces who sitting on the side as the Cubs played the Rockies at Wrigley Field: James Russell and Emilio Bonifacio. Everyone knew that the two complementary players, who were free agents at the end of the year, were going to be dealt. At one point mid-game, Russell shuttled back and forth between the bullpen and the dugout, hugs were spotted, and it was on. He and Bonifacio had been traded, together with cash, for catching prospect Victor Caratini.
Why am I belaboring all of that?
Because earlier this year, the Cubs got James Russell back on a minor league deal, and today, they pulled off the same trick with Emilio Bonifacio. He’s been assigned to AAA Iowa for now, but Bonifacio makes for an intriguing call-up in September when rosters expand to 40.
The Cubs picked up Bonifacio, 30, after the Royals let him go last Spring Training. He was a solid contributor for the team early in the year, showing defensive skill and versatility, and plenty of speed. He parlayed the year into a $4 million deal with the White Sox for 2015 ($3 million for the season, $4 million team option for 2016 with a $1 million buyout), which was an utter disaster. Bonifacio hit just .167/.198/.192 with a suddenly abysmal strikeout rate, a microscopic walk rate, and didn’t contribute much on the base paths. He dealt with an oblique injury (he also had an oblique injury in his time with the Cubs), to boot.
At this point, Bonifacio is simply a versatile defensive stash in the minors with a ton of speed. In case you missed it last night, the Cubs also signed speedster Quintin Berry to a minor league deal, and he’s another guy to watch for September. Berry and/or Bonifacio could be a weapon off of the bench, even if only to run the bases. He’s not quite the base-running weapon that Berry is, but Bonifacio is more versatile defensively.