By Daryl Van Schouwen
The White Sox’ agreement with Emilio Bonifacio to a one-year deal with a club option for 2016 may not pack the same punch as some of general manager Rick Hahn’s previous free-agent signings this off-season, but it represents an important part of the Sox plan for 2015 nonetheless.
Bonifacio, who turns 30 in April, is a switch-hitter who can play all three outfield positions, shortstop, third base and second base, a versatile type manager Robin Ventura has always wanted. He can platoon with lefthanded hitting third baseman Conor Gillaspie at third base, provide 33-year-old shortstop Alexei Ramirez with an occasional day off and fill in all over the outfield.
He started 25 games at second base for the Braves and Cubs last season and 78 in 2013 for the Royals and Blue Jays, so he serves as a fallback or insurance should the competition between Carlos Sanchez and Micah Johnson fail to produce an answer at a key middle infield position. With 164 career stolen bases, he has value as a pinch runner.
The Sox will be Bonifacio’s eighth major league team. The Cubs dealt him to the Braves at the trade deadline last season. He is a career .262 hitter with a .341 on-base percentage. His numbers against lefties (.291/.341/.380 slash line) are better than his versus right-handers (/250/.311/.326).
“I look at Bonnie kind of like a Chone Figgins, where he can go here, there, everywhere,” former Cubs manager Rick Renteria said of Bonifacio last season. “He can go in different places, so it keeps everybody in the game and allows him the freedom to be in the lineup as often as possible. His flexibility in the National League game is obviously a big plus for us.”
Bonifacio’s best season was in 2011 with the Florida Marlins when he hit .296 with a .360 on-base percentage and 40 stolen bases. He had 26 doubles and seven triples.
With three first baseman/designated hitter types in Jose Abreu, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko on his roster last season, Ventura worked with a short bench. Konerko retired and Dunn, who was in the last year of his contract, was effectively replaced by free agent Adam LaRoche.
Bonifacio will receive $3 million in 2015 and $4 million in 2016 or a $1 million buyout, a major league source said. The deal is pending a physical and has not been announced by the Sox. The 40-man roster stands at 40, so a corresponding move would have to be made.
Bonifacio is the latest addition in what has been a busy offseason for Hahn. In addition to LaRoche, Hahn has also signed closer David Robertson, lefty relievers Zach Duke and Dan Jennings and outfielder Melky Cabrera and traded for starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija.