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Free Agent Profile: Emilio Bonifacio

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Ben Zobrist fills a need for the Mariners but might cost too much to acquire. Emilio Bonifacio would fill the same needs at a fraction of the cost.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

We've come to the slowest portion of the offseason, the Winter Meetings are long over and the Holiday season is coming to a close. Baseball has slumbered for the last few weeks and the promise of a new year is on the horizon. The news cycle should pick up again when the results of the Hall of Fame election are announced on January 6th, but until then, baseball is still hibernating.

Yesterday, Scott argued that the Mariners are still in need of some depth before they can call their roster complete. Ben Zobrist has been a popular target for many in this community but I think he'll probably cost too much talent to be worth a one-year rental. Maybe you disagree with me but there's another option that's still on the table. He may not be the same caliber of player as Ben Zobrist, but Emilio Bonifacio would provide the same amount of flexibility at a fraction of the cost.

The Profile

Emilio Bonifacio will turn 30-years-old soon after opening day in 2015. Bonifacio is more known for his defensive versatility and his baserunning prowess than his ability to swing the bat. In his eight years in the big leagues, he's only had one year where he hit better than league average (a 109 wRC+ in 2011). A switch-hitter, he's historically hit lefties much better than righties.

Career wRC+ vs. Left

97

Career wRC+ vs. Right

73

The Mariners wouldn't be signing Bonifacio for his bat, however. His versatility is his greatest asset and he's accumulated over 2.0 WAR twice in the last four years despite some horrendous batting lines. He's spent a significant amount of time at both of the middle infield positions, third base, and center field as well as some time in the corner outfield positions. He grades out as a pretty decent defender a most of these positions:

Position

Career UZR

Career DRS

Second Base

0.4

7

Third Base

-3.4

2

Shortstop

-6.8

-7

Left Field

2.9

-1

Center Field

-1.6

-5

Right Field

3.4

7

For a utility player, he doesn't have to be a world class defender at each position, only serviceable. Stick Bonifacio at any of the positions above and he'll hold his own.

The Projection

2015 Steamer Projection - Emilio Bonifacio

AB

HR

ISO

AVG

OBP

SLG

wRC+

fWAR

385

3

.082

.251

.307

.334

81

0.6

2015 ZiPS Projection - Emilio Bonifacio

AB

HR

ISO

AVG

OBP

SLG

wRC+

fWAR

411

3

.080

.258

.309

.338

86

0.8

Steamer doesn't see much value in Bonifacio next year. This is basically the same offensive line he put up in 2014 with a negative defensive value bringing his fWAR from 2.1 in 2014 down to a projected 0.6. ZiPS is a bit more optimistic: a batting line a touch better and a neutral defensive value combine for a projected 0.8 fWAR in 2015. Depending on which position he spends the most time at next season, I could see Bonifacio exceeding 1.0 WAR. I'd lean towards ZiPS as a more accurate representation of what a season from Bonifacio could look like in 2015.

The Cost

The FanGraphs crowd guessed that Bonifacio would see a contract around 2 years long worth around $5 million in average annual value. I think that guess is a bit high. Bonifacio was paid an average of $2.4 million in his three arbitration years without a significant raise. His skillset has been traditionally undervalued by major league teams and I don't think many teams will be offering him $5 million a year to be a super utility player. My guess is a 2-year, $6 million contract. That fits with his recent salaries and his perceived skillset and wouldn't break the bank for any team.

The Fit

While I like Ben Zobrist as a potential trade target, I'm afraid that his cost in talent will be too much to justify a one-year rental. I'm also worried that the Mariners are at the edge of their maximum payroll and acquiring Zobrist would put us over the top. A low-cost acquisition like Emilio Bonifacio fills two needs then, a flexible utility player who can play all over the diamond while allowing the Mariners to continue to add depth at a few other positions.

Signing Bonifacio to be our 25th man on the roster might seem redundant with Willie Bloomquist ready to take up that role again. But Bloomquist had microfracture knee surgery in August and has only been recently cleared to begin light jogging in January. Corey Hart also had microfracture knee surgery on his knees and he definitely wasn't fully recovered more than a year afterwards. I wouldn't count on Bloomquist for anything in 2015 -- not that we were anyway.

Even if Bloomquist is healthy enough to play, Bonifacio is a better option in the field and at the plate. His flexibility as a switch-hitter would give Lloyd McClendon options off the bench and his ability to play all of the outfield positions and most of the infield positions makes him a great fallback plan in case of injury or ineffectiveness.

Emilio Bonifacio isn't a splashy acquisition like Ben Zobrist might be but he fills the same needs at a fraction of the cost. The Mariners would do well to at least look into signing him or a player like him to deepen their roster.