After being designated for assignment, and eventually released by the Kansas City Royals, Emilio Bonifacio signed a minor league contract with the Chicago Cubs over the weekend. Bonifacio gives the team great depth as he can play all over the outfield and the infield. While right now he looks like a likely bench player for the Cubs, I think that Bonifacio should become the everyday second baseman.
Darwin Barney has been the Cubs’ everyday 2B for the past three seasons. He is an incredible defender (2012 Gold Glove winner), and by all accounts, a great clubhouse presence. Unfortunately, Barney is an extremely light hitter, that has given the Cubs almost nothing at the plate for the past three seasons. His career slash line is .246/.293/.336, with 2013 being his worst season yet at .208/.266/.303. Sure his defense is great, but Barney is obviously a liability at the plate, and the Cubs cannot continue trotting him out there.
Bonifacio’s career slash line is not that impressive either, but at .262/.322/.340, it is much better than Barney’s. The most impressive tool in Bonifacio’s arsenal is his speed. He is one of the fastest players in the league, and has always stolen bases at an impressive clip. Playing as a part-time player for most of his career, Bonifacio has 138 career stolen bases in 174 attempts, including 40 in 2011 and 30 in only 64 games in 2012. Compare that to Barney’s career total of 19 stolen bases in 24 attempts, and it is obvious that Bonifacio has the edge in speed.
New Cubs manager Rick Renteria, is aggressive on the basepaths, as he is never afraid to throw up the steal sign. Starlin Castro and Junior Lake represent some speed in the everyday lineup, but overall, it is a very slow group. Bonifacio would obviously add a ton of speed to the lineup, and give Renteria a legitimate stolen base threat every single day. Also, the Cubs lack a hitter that has experience at the top of the order. While you would like to see his on-base skills improve, considering his speed and experience at the top of the order, Bonifacio would make more sense in the lead-off spot than anybody else they currently have in the lineup.
Bonifacio simply fills holes with the Cubs that Barney is not able to do. Sure, it will hurt losing Barney’s glove in the everyday line-up, but the improved offensive production at the plate, and especially on the basepaths will be worth it. Barney’s elite defensive ability would make him an ideal infielder off of the bench, and I could see him playing a key role with the Cubs as a back-up. That being said, his offensive production is embarrassing, and the Cubs would be wise to give Bonifacio the job until the prospects are ready.