Farewell, Bonifacio (UPDATE: Bonifacio and Russell to Braves)

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The deal is Emilio Bonifacio and James Russell to the Atlanta Braves for Victor Caratini, a 20-year-old 3B/C who is hitting .279/.352/.406 in 87 games at Class-A.

Here is the scouting report Baseball America gave for Caratini when they ranked him as the Braves No. 8 prospect entering the 2014 season:

“Caratini is an advanced hitter with a line-drive swing, a gap-to-gap approach from both sides of the plate and an excellent feel for the strike zone.  He stroked 25 extra-base hits at Rookie-level Danville and can drive the ball to the opposite field, but scouts are mixed regarding his power potential at higher levels.

Caratini has plus arm strength and enough quickness to handle the job behind the plate.”

This looks like a great trade for the Cubs.  James Russell was nearly worthless, having only one season under his belt with an FIP below 4.27, and that came in 2012.  Hitters have no problem squaring him up and he isn’t particularly effective against lefties.

In return for Russell and a couple months of Bonifacio the Cubs were able to add depth to the weakest position in the organization, bringing in a player who should stick at catcher and has a bat that may eventually play in the Big Leagues.

According to the agent of Emilio Bonifacio, the infectious super-utility player will be dealt today.

Both Bonifacio’s ability to create on the diamond, as well as his aptitude to play several positions lead to him being a valuable asset for a contending team down the stretch.  The Cubs simply have no choice but to extract whatever value they can out of a player they signed to a one-year deal back on February 15.  On a winning team, Bonifacio will allow other players to rest in the final months of the season, while also serving as an ideal pinch runner or lead-off man.

Heading into the season, those reasons were exactly why Emilio made so much sense for the Cubs.  In Spring Training we saw the Cubs frequently mix and match their lineups with interchangeable pieces and Bonifacio was one of the players who allowed the team to have that kind of flexibility.  The versatile, attacking Cubs lineup never materialized in 2014 though, due to both injuries (Ryan Sweeney, Justin Ruggiano, Bonifacio) and ineffectiveness (Nate Schierholtz, Ryan Kalish, Junior Lake) and as the Cubs are heading towards another bottom five finish, moving Bonifacio now will open up opportunities for other players down the stretch.

With Bonifacio becoming a free agent at the end of the season, it only makes sense for the Cubs to explore his value during another lost season.  However, according to Henry Schulman, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have set a high asking price for Bonifacio’s services:


As a player the Cubs took a flyer on this spring after being released by the Royals, turning such a short-term asset into a long-term asset is a huge win.  However, Bonifacio was the kind of player a winning team wants to have in their clubhouse, and I hope the Cubs will seriously consider bringing “Bonnie” back this offseason for that reason.

In May of this year I argued that the Cubs should offer Bonifacio an extension, and while that line of thinking is about to be proven wrong when the trade is announced, the logic still makes sense that Bonifacio is the type of guy a young Cubs team should want to keep around:

Sometimes, the intangibles a player brings to the stadium everyday can be oversold, but in the case of Bonifacio, that does not appear to be true. Bonifacio has taken Starlin Castro under his wing, and his infectious attitude seems to spill over to everyone else in the dugout. Normally, this is the type of player who best fits on a winning team as the final piece of a championship puzzle.

But in the case of the Cubs, Bonifacio has served as the player who has helped to bring the clubhouse together as they mature and grow as a team.

Bonifacio is not going to put the Cubs over the top in 2015 and he may be a bench player when the Cubs eventually make a long-awaited playoff appearance, but he is the type of player who endears himself to both fans and teammates with a positive energy that radiates throughout the stadium.

Extending him gives the Cubs the perfect opportunity to show that they are finally working towards building up a winning team at the major league level, and that would be a welcome change of direction for fans and players alike.

In the end, Theo and Jed just could not resist making another trade to stock the embarrassment of riches they have built up in the minor league system.  Cubs fans now trust these two decision-makers completely, as they should, and it will be interesting to see if the Cubs and Bonifacio show mutual interest in a reunion this offseason.  Chances are probably slim, but Chicago would welcome Bonnie back with open arms.

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