By Bruce Levine-
WRIGLEY FIELD (CBS) — The immediate impact of Emilio Bonifacio to the Cub lineup raises some questions to ponder for now and the future. Released by the Royals in late winter, the Cubs smartly outbid seven other teams while agreeing to a one year contract that will pay the player close to $3 million in 2014. Bonifacio also receives $580,000 in termination pay from Kansas City.
Kansas City’s loss has been a revelation for the Cubs solution to a top of the lineup hitter with on-base ability and speed. An instant hit with fans and teammates, common baseball sense will tell you he will not be the leagues MVP.
Bonifacio won’t hit .500 all season, but he projects as a functional everyday lead off man with trade value to a contender at some juncture. Bonifacio has been on base 16 times in the teams first six games. That he has scored only four times, is a function of a lackluster offense the Cubs offer on a daily basis.
“I don’t look at numbers,” Bonifacio said to me Sunday. “I know if I get enough at bats that I can score runs and help the team win when I am playing.”
A long term contract after 6 games may be pushing the envelope. Than again, knowing how tough it is to find lead off men, a proactive approach to retaining him under contract control might be a wise move. If you consider that at age 29, Bonifacio could get a three year deal and still be a prime chip to deal in year two or three of the contract.
“This place already feels like home to me,” Bonifacio related. “I don’t want to think about a long contract, my job is to work hard and help us win everyday. Ii certainly want to settle down and be in one place. All that will take care of itself if I do my job everyday.”
That the player can move from position to position without any defensive drop off, makes it even more surprising he was not more highly pursued after his release from KC.
“He is actually a ball of energy,” said manager Ricky Renteria. “He is moving around the dugout talking about getting on base. We appreciate having him and our conversations in the dugout have been pretty good. When he gets to the plate he tries to work the count, he tries to get on base. He wants to wreck havoc on the other team. It is really good he is a part of our club.”
Should he stay or should he g ? Not just a famous lyric from the Clash, but a rhetorical question that will need to be addressed sooner rather than later. A three year deal for Bonifacio would be a favorable leverage position for the Cubs, as they try to compete now and win big in the future.
A hot start does not make you an All Star in July. One thing Bonifacio’s impact brings is speed (142 stolen bases) to a lineup and organization that has none. That commodity alone is something to consider keeping for more than just the immediate future.