While the White Sox have played a better brand of baseball of late, the offense is still leaving a lot to be desired. Robin Ventura has done some things to tinker with the lineup recently, including shifting guys around in the order and giving certain players more at-bats.
One of those guys who has seen a spike in some PT is Emilio Bonifacio, who started consecutive games this week for just the second time this season. It’s been a mystery and a bit perplexing how Ventura used him this year, as he only started two games for the entire month of April despite being one of the top utility, or “super sub” men in baseball over the last few seasons. That lack of game experience could explain his brutal statline to begin the season, as he’s slashing a putrid .177/.203/.194 for a downright brutal .397 OPS, which is 383rd out of 391 players with at least 50 plate appearances.
It looks like Ventura is going to give him some time to figure something out here, as we seen him start recently for the almost equally offensively inept Carlos Sanchez (he’s 379th with a .409 OPS). However, we have to wonder how much patience the Sox will have with the veteran, considering he’s looked like the 13th bat on the roster in their minds since the season began.
To me, his recent playing time just seems like a “prove it to me” scenario. He’s getting a chance to figure it out now, and if he doesn’t we may see a move made with that roster spot. I have no inside information, nor will I pretend to read the minds of Robin Ventura and the coaching staff. With the offense still struggling, it’s just a hunch to me that Emilio is down to his last straw.
Emilio’s value when he was signed that he could fill in at six different positions, can give you speed and a decent average, and be a nice bottom-of-the-order bat against left-handed pitching. He seemed poised to carve out a nice role for himself in a platoon role at third base with Conor Gillaspie and a utility man on other nights, but things changed when Gordon Beckham as signed. Becks started the season on a tear, has played incredible defense at the hot corner, and has never looked back. The team also likes Beckham more at shortstop for the same reasons, and J.B. Shuck has proven a much more reliable commodity in the outfield in all facets. His last remaining position, second base, has been manned by two youngsters in Sanchez and Micah Johnson thus far, which figures to be the case all season long unless real difference-maker is acquired later on.
Knowing all of the above, it’s just hard to tell what Bonifacio’s exact role is on this team and what real purpose he serves. He can play six positions, but he’s behind two players at all six of those spots. Sure, maybe he’s a nice option to come in and pinch-run, but he also has a mind-boggling ZERO steals (has 164 for his career) and doesn’t have the speed of a Micah Johnson anyways, who we figure to see on the roster at some point again in 2015, if not in the very near future.
It’s temping to just say Bonifacio should be DFA’ed, but the Sox did pay him $3,000,000 this offseason with a $1,000,000 buyout for next year ($4,000,000 team option, which at this point looks like a longshot to be picked up). Also, this isn’t quite the Jeff Keppinger scenario of a few years ago, as Bonifacio still can do things for you even if he’s not hitting.
However, given Bonifacio’s contract, what exactly can you get for him at this point? How much interest will there be in a .177 hitter making $3,000,000 dollars, even with his solid track record? Considering the fact that the Cubs received a struggling reliever who now sits in AAA for a starting-caliber catcher in Wellington Castillo, I would imagine the package wouldn’t be all that enticing or significant.
So, what can we expect to happen with Bonifacio? I think given his recent spike in playing time, he’s getting his chance to find a groove. If he doesn’t do so soon, the White Sox may work feverishly to find an alternative for his roster spot and to get some compensation back for him. Maybe it’s Micah Johnson being recalled to create a more dynamic platoon at second base. Maybe is Leury Garcia, who is hitting well in AAA and is better defensively in the infield than Bonifacio. Maybe it’s someone not with the organization right now.
We won’t know for sure until a move is made, but one this seems certain to me: the clock is ticking for #64.