Archive for Emilio Bonifacio
The Yankees have a long list of needs heading into the trade deadline, and the Cubs are one of the few teams that we know will be sellers for certain. They’re in the middle of a big rebuild and have been trading away veteran players for prospects since the Theo Epstein-led regime arrived in town during the 2011-12 offseason. This summer figures to be no different.
This morning we looked at Cubs’ pitchers (three, specifically) who could possibly help the Yankees not only this season, but in some cases next season as well. Now we’re going to look at the position players because hey, the Bombers really need some offense. The infield and right field are the two most obvious (only possible?) areas to upgrade. Here’s a look at the Cubs’ position players who could potentially interest the Yankees.
SS Starlin Castro
It’s amazing how quickly the perception of players can change. At the end of last season, Castro was an overpaid, unproductive malcontent who embodied the Cubs’ player development and rebuilding failures. Now? Now Castro is the co-cornerstone of the infield along with Anthony Rizzo, rebounding from a terrible 2013 season to be a top notch producer and model citizen under new manager Rick Renteria. The fielding gaffes and apparent disinterest have been kept to a minimum.
Castro, who is still only 24, has hit .284/.331/.478 (121 wRC+) with eleven homers in 320 plate appearances this season after mustering a weak .245/.284/.347 (70 wRC+) line with ten homers in 705 plate appearances a year ago. He hit .297/.336/.425 (102 wRC+) with 27 homers total from 2010-12, his first three years in the show. Castro’s batting ball profile returned to its pre-2013 levels and at his age he’s simply getting stronger and better. He remains a total hacker (5.6% walk rate) but his bat-to-ball skills are very good (17.2% strikeout rate). It’s also worth noting he’s played in 556 of 561 possible games from 2011-14. Castro’s tools are very impressive.
The Cubs have a top shortstop prospect in Triple-A in Javier Baez, though that doesn’t automatically mean they will trade Castro. Neither guy is a standout defender and could wind up at second base. Plus there’s the matter of Baez hitting .226/.278/.424 (74 wRC+) while striking out in 34.2% of his plate appearances this year. (He had a 28.8% strikeout rate in Double-A last season, so the hacktastic ways are nothing new.) The kid has electric, Gary Sheffield-esque bat speed, but he’s ultra-aggressive and there are serious concerns about his ability to hit at the higher levels. Trade Castro and the Cubs might wind up with no viable young shortstops within a year or two.
Castro signed an eight-year, $60M extension during the 2012 season and is under contract through 2019 (option for 2020), when he will still be only 29 years old. If the Cubs were open to trading him, they’d market him as if 2013 was just a bump in the road. Young, high-ceiling middle infielders signed through their peak years never get traded. I can’t come up with a comparable deal to reference and will simply say it will take a package of several high-end prospects to bring Castro to the Bronx. I don’t see this happening at all.
IF Luis Valbuena
Valbuena, 28, is quietly hitting .266/.359/.425 (117 wRC+) with four homers and a 12.7% walk rate in 237 plate appearances this year. He’s always been a patient hitter (career 10.2 BB%) and last season’s .218/.331/.378 (95 wRC+) batting line would have been better if not for a career low .233 BABIP. He has a .336 BABIP this year and a .267 BABIP since getting to the Cubs in 2012 (.266 career!), so his true talent level is probably somewhere between his 2013 and 2014 performances.
The Yankees need infield help and Valbuena has a lot of experience at both second and third bases, so he provides some flexibility. The various defensive stats rate him anywhere from average to slightly above at the two positions. Valbuena is a left-handed hitter with patience who could see his power production tick up in Yankee Stadium (his spray charts suggests it may), plus he’ll remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2016. Not the sexiest name in the world, but Valbuena would be an upgrade at either second or third bases for New York. Yunel Escobar fetched a Grade-C upper level prospect (Derek Dietrich) when he was dealt from the Marlins to the Rays two years ago, if you’re looking for a comparable trade.
3B Mike Olt
If you’ve been reading RAB long enough, then I’m sure you’re familiar with Olt. The Connecticut raised third baseman was discussed as a possible trade target more than a few times over the years, particularly when he was with the Rangers. Texas traded him to Chicago as part of the package for Matt Garza last year.
Olt, 25, is having a statistically fascinating season as a part-time with the Cubs. He’s hitting .146/.225/.354 (55 wRC+) with a 38.2% strikeout rate and an 8.4% walk rate, so he’s an extreme hacker/swing-and-miss guy, but he’s also clubbed ten homers in 178 plate appearances. The right-handed pop is there and always has been. Olt is okay defensively at third and he has years to go before being eligible for arbitration, nevermind free agency. He’s a project. If the Yankees think their organizational hitting gurus can fix him up, then he would make sense as a buy low, possible long-term third base option. Olt is not someone who can help the team right away, however.
OF Justin Ruggiano & OF Nate Schierholtz
I’m going to lump these two together because they’re both platoon outfielders. Ruggiano, 32, is hitting .220/.321/.352 (88 wRC+) overall this year with a 102 wRC+ against lefties. The 30-year-old Schierholtz has a brutal .205/.260/.308 (52 wRC+) batting line overall and with a 54 wRC+ against righties. He’s the better defender of the two but Ruggiano is about average himself. Schierholtz will become a free agent after the season while Ruggiano is under team control through the 2016 season.
The Yankees are currently riding the underwhelming Alfonso Soriano/Ichiro Suzuki platoon in right field and could use some more power from the position. Neither Ruggiano nor Schierholtz seems likely to provide that based on their performance this year. Utility man Emilio Bonifacio got off to an insane start back in April but hasn’t hit a lick since and is sitting on a .261/.306/.340 (75 wRC+) batting line. He can provide some speed and versatility off the bench, but nothing more. None of these three would move the needle.
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Since it seems unlikely the Cubs will move Castro in the coming weeks for anything less than a substantial haul, Valbuena appears to be the only option who would actually help the Yankees this season. Olt is interesting in the sense that he has power and is a former top prospect, but he needs to be fixed. He’s not going to help anyone right away. Castro is a stud and Jeff Samardzija is very available and a true impact pitcher, but I think Valbuena and Jason Hammel are the more realistic fits for the Yankees.
According to multiple reports, utility man Emilio Bonifacio has signed a minor league contract with the Cubs. Jon Heyman says he turned down big league contract offers from other teams because he felt Chicago gave him the best opportunity. There were never any reports indicating the Yankees had interest in Bonifacio, but he did make some sense for that final option bench spot. Oh well.
The Yankees still have an open bench spot and are said to be done with their major offseason moves, meaning low cost guys like Scott Sizemore, Dean Anna, and Eduardo Nunez will compete for the utility infield role. Another relatively low cost option hit the market on Saturday as the Royals designated Emilio Bonifacio for assignment. The move cleared a 40-man roster spot for the recently re-signed Bruce Chen.
Bonifacio, 28, was pretty terrible with the Blue Jays and Royals last year, hitting only .243/.295/.331 (71 wRC+) with three homers and 28 stolen bases in 461 plate appearances. He had a big year with the Marlins in 2011 (109 wRC+ and 40 SB) but he’s been unable to build on it. Bonifacio is a switch-hitter with no real platoon split (91 wRC+ vs. RHP and 88 wRC+ vs. LHP from 2011-13), so platooning him doesn’t figure to help much.
In the field, Bonifacio has a ton of experience at second base, third base, left field, and center field. He’s also spent some time at shortstop and right field, so he offers a lot of versatility. The various defensive stats say he’s a bit below-average in center and average just about everywhere else. I suppose a breakout season could be right around the corner at his age, but at this point it’s safe to consider Bonifacio a role player who provides speed off the bench and can play almost anywhere on the field. Nothing more.
Is he better than Sizemore, Anna, Nunez and whoever else? I don’t think we can say. Is it worth adding him to that Spring Training competition? Yeah, I think so. Bonifacio is owed a lot of money this year ($3.5M), so if he clears waivers, he won’t elect free agency and forfeit that salary. The Yankees could try to claim him if they’re willing to take on that money, but it’s more likely they’d have to swing a small trade because the infield-needy Dodgers figure to be interested. Bonifacio hasn’t been all that good these last two years, but he could make sense for New York as the 25th man on the roster, or at least as part of a competition for that spot.
UPDATE: I got the contract stuff wrong. Bonifacio can’t elect free agency because he’s never been removed from the 40-man roster before. The Royals can release him and would only owe him one-sixth of his salary since it’s a non-guaranteed contract.
Got four post-Winter Meetings questions for you today. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week.
Daniel asks: I know you guys always refer to David Price as “Future Yankee David Price.” But I’m not exactly sure why. When is his contract up and what are the chances we could actually pull off a deal?
The Future Yankee David Price thing is mostly a joke built around the idea that he’s an ace-caliber left-handed pitcher on a small market team who they won’t be able to sign long-term. The kind of guy we tend to expect the Yankees to swoop in and sign when he’s a free agent. Plus I like to poke some fun at some Rays fans friends of mine.
Price, who just turned 27 in August, is going to make massive money through arbitration with his credentials. Even before he was named the Cy Young Award winner, MLBTR projected him to earn $9.5M through arbitration this winter, which would be a new record for a second time eligible pitcher. He’s also a Super Two, meaning he still has two more years of arbitration left ahead of him. He could (and should as long as he doesn’t get hurt) be earning upwards of $20M+ by 2015, before he even hits free agency. The Rays figure to trade him at some point, but I highly doubt they would trade him within the division. The Yankees will have to wait three more years until he’s a free agent.
Richard asks: If the Yankees were able to initially smoke-and-mirror their way to something approaching contention with cheap pickups and players from the minors, which teams would be out of the running in mid-season (assuming the Yankees aren’t) and which players better suited to the Yankees’ needs might become available?
This isn’t the easiest question to answer because there is so much offseason left, but I think the most obvious candidates are the Cubs, Twins, Astros, Marlins, and Rockies. The Indians, Pirates, Mariners, and Padres are the next tier since you can kinda see sneaking into contention if things breaks right. The Twins have Josh Willingham and Jamey Carroll to offer while the Cubs have David DeJesus and the pricey Alfonso Soriano, but that’s really it. Maybe Ramon Hernandez of the Rockies stays healthy and becomes available. The Astros have nothing and the Yankees don’t really have the pieces to land a Dexter Fowler type. Maybe they will at midseason.
Zac asks: Would Trevor Plouffe make sense as a 3B option for the Yankees, and would the Twins consider trading him? Also, seeing that Emilio Bonifacio is potentially available, would he be an option?
I’ll say yes and no for Bonifacio. Yes he would be an option given his ability to play all over the infield and dabble in the outfield, but no I don’t think he’s an option because the Blue Jays hate trading within the division. GM Alex Anthopoulos has said so publicly many times.
As for Plouffe, I assume the Twins are open to dealing anyone following the Denard Span and Ben Revere trades. The 26-year-old hit .235/.301/.455 (106 wRC+) with 24 homers in 465 plate appearances for Minnesota this year while spending most of his time at third base. He also dabbled at second base and in right field. Plouffe is a right-handed hitter who does almost all of his damage, especially in the power department, against lefties. He wasn’t a big prospect and he really doesn’t offer much except power, though he is under team control for five more years (and will be a Super Two). Does Ivan Nova in a one-for-one trade work? I feel like that’s too much given the fact that a starting pitcher is far more valuable than a platoon bat.
Frank asks: When Angelo Gumbs came out of prep school he was touted as a CF/SS prospect with decent tools. Since the Yanks really don’t have a SS prospect that’s highly rated, wouldn’t it benefit the Yanks to try him at short again?
Before we start, here’s what Baseball America (subs. req’d) wrote about Gumbs’ defense in their recent top ten Yankees prospects list…
Gumbs has made significant growth defensively and is beginning to take advantage of his plus arm and range. He still has some stiffness and hardness to his hands, but as his footwork improves with repetition, he should be a solid defender at second base.
If Gumbs, 20, truly has “plus arm and range” at second base, I think it’s worth a shot to try him back at shortstop since the whole Cito Culver thing just isn’t happening. That’s very easy to say from here, especially since my knowledge of Gumbs’ defense doesn’t extend far beyond those two sentences above, but the Yankees should look to maximize his value and shortstop is more valuable than second base. The team has some solid second base prospects in David Adams and to a lesser extent Corban Joseph, but that shouldn’t really be a factor in moving him. If Gumbs can play the more premium position, they should try it.
The Blue Jays and Marlins are on the verge of completing a monster ten-ish player blockbuster that will send Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, John Buck, and Emilio Bonifacio to Toronto for Henderson Alvarez, Yunel Escobar, and various prospects. The deal is not official yet and reports are still trickling in about who those various prospects actually are, so I suggest checking out MLBTR every so often until this thing is finalized.
Toronto lost 89 games and a ton of players to injury last year, but this trade obviously improves their outlook for next season. We have all winter to analyze this deal and how it relates to the Yankees, but for now here’s a thread to discuss this monstrosity.