The Phillies Should Consider Picking Up Emilio Bonifacio

In order to make room on the 40-man roster for starter Bruce Chen, the Royals designated utilityman Emilio Bonifacio for assignment earlier today. Bonifacio will turn 29 years old on April 23 and has experience playing every position on the diamond except for pitcher, catcher, and first base. Over his seven-year Major League career, Bonifacio has racked up 400 or more defensive innings at second base, third base, center field, shortstop, and left field. The Phillies already have a glut of players auditioning for possible roles with the 2014 squad, but they should consider trading with the Royals to acquire Bonifacio.

Throughout the off-season, GM Ruben Amaro has talked about his desire to have a left-handed outfielder capable of playing center field to back up Ben Revere:

“I think we’re focused on a left-handed bat, possibly an outfielder or somebody who can play center field, give us more depth out there,” Amaro said. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be a left-handed-hitting center fielder, but we’re also looking at trying to upgrade from the left side. That’s mostly what our focus is right now.”

Bonifacio isn’t much with the bat as he has a career .662 OPS and has posted an adjusted OPS of 76 or worse in four of his last five seasons. However, he would hit as little as possible if he were to make the team — his playing time would come more as a late-game defensive replacement or as a pinch-runner. Bonifacio wouldn’t be completely unreliable if he happens to hit, however, as he has finished with a walk rate of 8.5 percent or higher in three straight seasons between 2010-12, and his on-base percentage ranged from .320 to .360.

The Phillies still lack speed. Among regulars, the only players projected to steal 20 or more bases are Jimmy Rollins (20) and Revere (34). Bonifacio has stolen 98 bases in 122 attempts (80 percent) over the last three seasons. You can peg him for an easy 20-25 even in a part-time role. As a speedster, Bonifacio has plenty of experience bunting and he would prove proficient in those instances where the Phillies — much to our chagrin — decide to bunt a runner into scoring position.

One of the understated benefits of bringing Bonifacio on board would be the flexibility to allow Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez to get regular playing time at Triple-A, although manager Ryne Sandberg seemed confident in bringing Galvis north when the team breaks camp at the end of March.

Assuming the Phillies decide to go with a 12-man pitching staff (five starters, seven relievers), their position player corps would be split among the eight regulars (Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cody Asche, Domonic Brown, Revere, Marlon Byrd) and five bench players — Wil Nieves, Kevin Frandsen, Bonifacio, John Mayberry, and Darin Ruf. The Phillies could still cut Mayberry if, say, Bobby Abreu proves that he still has a little something left in the tank.

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19 comments

  1. sweatingisnormal

    February 01, 2014 01:32 PM

    $3 millionish seems kind of high for a utility infielder on a marginal team. Maybe his price drops, but I see the Dodgers swooping in on this one – they’re quasi-desperate for inf help.

  2. Andrew R.

    February 01, 2014 03:35 PM

    This is a team that has carried Michael Martinez for 3 years. Bonifacio is better in every aspect. It’s a no brainer!!

  3. Bob

    February 01, 2014 11:43 PM

    Mayberry is a better player than Frandsen. If they cut anyone for E.B., it should be Frandsen.

  4. Jack

    February 02, 2014 03:45 AM

    Does Freddy Galvis really need regular playing time at Triple A?

      • hk

        February 02, 2014 08:10 AM

        With a career MiLB OPS of .615 in 2,445 PA’s, is there hope that a full season in AAA working on his hitting will produce results?

      • Francisco (FC)

        February 02, 2014 09:12 AM

        I think hk has a point. If after 2000+ PA in the minors Galvis doesn’t know how to hit he’s quite unlikely to improve at this point in his career. We should probably just accept that and keep him in the utility IF role, spelling the veterans every few days and hit him 8th.

      • Ryan

        February 02, 2014 09:16 AM

        So you’re saying that you can’t keep developing as a 24 year old? I think that it’s a bit tough to take a kid like that and stash him on the bench for a whole season. Maybe put him in the minors to start and he’s your first call up? Seems like Bonifacio is a better bench guy anyway since he has even more positional flexibility and the speed/pinch runner aspect to his game.

      • Bill Baer

        February 02, 2014 09:31 AM

        There are always things you can work on. It’s not like he’ll develop 20 HR power, but he can learn to hit a bit better from the left side, hit fewer balls in the air so he can utilize his speed better, hit to the opposite field with authority, etc. He can also improve his plate discipline.

      • hk

        February 02, 2014 10:36 AM

        @Ryan,

        I’m not saying that a 24 year old kid can’t keep developing, I just don’t think that this one in particular has the potential to develop much more as a hitter and that he will make a career of being a strong glove, weak bat bench player. If the organization feels that Freddy won’t benefit from more MiLB PA’s and that his defense coming off the bench will be more helpful than with Bonifacio’s speed, I would have no problem with that decision.

      • sweatingisnormal

        February 02, 2014 01:15 PM

        except Freddie is not fast, just looks it…but in reality he’s prob just at or more likely below avg speed. He is the human change up: he looks faster than he is.

        I’m doubtful of further bat development, mainly because he has slow bat speed & that is a hard cap. He does have ++ awareness and a knack for raising to occassions.

    • awh

      February 03, 2014 02:43 PM

      Yes, because he sucks at hitting.

  5. SteveH

    February 02, 2014 08:39 AM

    Anybody who can routinely turn a walk into a double or possibly a triple is someone the Phillies need to take a look at. I don’t understand what the Royals are thinking here.

    Bill, I’m not much of a numbers guy but hasn’t Bonifacio had good value over his entire career since he has gotten regular playing time?

    • Bill Baer

      February 02, 2014 09:33 AM

      He was a 2.8 fWAR player in 2011 with the Marlins as an everyday player (641 PA). I wouldn’t take that as representative of his value though, as his BABIP was 40 points better than his career average and he hit half of his career home runs (5 of 10) in that season as well. It was also one of only two seasons in which he got overall positive marks from UZR. Realistically, he’s a 0.5-1.0 WAR player as a part-timer.

    • hk

      February 02, 2014 10:38 AM

      “Routinely” is a little much considering that 21% of the time over his career, he has turned that walk or single into an out (via a CS). While 79% is a pretty good success rate, when you factor in the impact of the times caught stealing, I think it is far from routine that he turns walks into doubles.

  6. mark

    February 03, 2014 04:33 PM

    If the Phils let Bonifacio slip through there fingers it would be a mistake.

  7. Fred

    February 03, 2014 10:02 PM

    Having seen what John Mayberry is capable of over the past several seasons I have had enough. The few clutch hits, bad defensive decision making, high strike out rate and failure to show any improvement speaks volumes. Assuming the core starters are going to rebound makes improving their support a no brainer. Adding Bonifacio to Frandsen, Galves, Nieves and Ruf would make them more flexible.

  8. Tim

    February 03, 2014 10:42 PM

    My feeling is that the Phillies believe that Galvis’ value has peaked (as a cheap INF glove). Bonifacio makes $3.5 million.

  9. ballerstatus

    February 05, 2014 08:51 AM

    whoa bruce chen is still around?

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