Emilio Bonifacio Rumors

Braves Acquire James Russell, Emilio Bonifacio

3:38pm: ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers tweets that the Cubs are sending cash to Atlanta as well. It will be about $1MM going to Atlanta, tweets Wittenmyer.

3:33pm: Wittenymyer tweets that a minor league catcher is headed to Chicago. Peter Gammons tweets that Chicago receives Victor Caratini from Atlanta.

3:24pm: The Braves have acquired left-hander James Russell and utilityman Emilio Bonifacio from the Cubs, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (on Twitter).

James Russell

Russell, 28, has posted a 3.51 ERA with 7.0 K/9, 4.3 BB/9 and a career-best 40.9 percent ground-ball rate. While he’s picking up more grounders than ever, Russell has also shown the worst command of his career — a trend he will hope to correct with the Braves. Russell has typically handled left-handed hitters pretty well, but the opposite has been true in 2014; right-handed batters have a meager .364 OPS against Russell, while same-handed batters have an alarming .295/.358/.525 batting line against him. In his career, however, lefties have batted .240/.276/.416 against Russell. He is earning just $1.9MM in 2014 and is controlled through 2015.

The switch-hitting Bonifacio, 29, had a solid debut season for the Cubs before being included in the trade. He’s hitting .279/.318/.373 with a pair of homers and 14 steals (in 20 attempts). Defensive metrics have liked his work at second base, third base and in center field this season, though his career marks aren’t as strong.

Bonifacio had an interesting offseason, as he was tendered a contract by the Royals and agreed to a $3.5MM salary before being released (and subsequently paid only a portion of his still non-guaranteed deal). The speedster latched on with the Cubs in Spring Training and played well, though he’s spent a portion of the year on the disabled list.

As for Caratini, he was a second-round pick by the Braves in 2013 and ranked as the organization’s No. 7 prospect on MLB.com’s midseason top 20 list. The 20-year-old Caratini has batted .279/.352/.406 in 87 games at Class-A this season. He’s a switch-hitting catcher who also plays third base. Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo at MLB.com feel that he’s a good enough defender to handle either position, but clearly he would have more value behind the dish. Though Callis and Mayo praise his defense, they feel that his bat is a better tool.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Cubs Moving Closer To Bonifacio Trade

TODAY, 12:04am: Also in on Bonifacio as of this morning were the Pirates, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.

11:13am: There is plenty of action on Bonifacio, who is being pursued currently by the Orioles, Giants, and Mariners, tweets Jayson Stark of ESPN.com.

Bonifacio is a backup option for the Mariners, along with Chris Denorfia, tweets Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Seattle prefers to add Alex Rios or Ben Zobrist.

YESTERDAY, 8:12pm: It does not appear that the Giants are going to acquire Bonifacio, according to a tweet from Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.

6:42pm: The Royals are not yet close to adding Bonifacio, tweets Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star.

5:48pm: The O’s are not in on Bonifacio, tweets Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun, who hears that the versatile fielder could be returning to Kansas City. Needless to say, that would be an interesting turn of events: Bonifacio finished well last year with Kansas City, was tendered a contract, agreed to a salary to avoid arbitration, and was then released before the start of the season.

5:14pm: At present, the Giants, Orioles, and Reds are all in play for Bonifacio, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.

4:50pm: Bonifacio has been told to be prepared for a deal today, tweets Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.

4:42pm: Bonifacio is indeed not in the lineup, with manager Rick Renteria saying it was “prudent” to hold him out, according to Rogers (Twitter link).

2:50pm: The Cubs are getting close to trading Bonifacio, tweets Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago. Levine tweets that Bonifacio is not in tonight’s lineup, which could obviously signal that a deal is nigh. Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle hears that the Giants have been scouting Bonifacio all week, but the asking price for the impending free agent is said to be high.

2:32pm: The Orioles are Giants are considering Cubs utility man Emilio Bonifacio as a trade option, tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney.  Bruce Levine of 670 The Score adds the Royals, Mariners, and Reds as three more potential suitors (All Twitter links).

Bonifacio, 29, is hitting .279/.318/.373 in 298 plate appearances for the Cubs.  The switch-hitter is raking against lefties in this year’s limited sample.  He’s mainly played center field and second base for the Cubs.  Bonifacio is eligible for free agency after the season.


Central Rumors: Russell, Colon, Burnett, Bonifacio, Pirates

The Cubs are a bit lacking in starting pitching depth following the trade of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, but lefty reliever James Russell suggested one name to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times that could help alleviate the problem: his own name. “There’s still not a doubt in my mind that I could [start],” said Russell, who was drafted as a starter. Russell acknowledged that he may not get the opportunity to start with the Cubs, because they may prefer to keep him in a relief role or because they may trade him this week. He adds that he’s stated his case with the front office multiple times to return to the rotation, and he’d be open to doing so again with another club if they felt he could handle the role.

More from the game’s central divisions …

  • The Royals have at least some interest in both Mets starter Bartolo Colon and Phillies hurler A.J. Burnett, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Martino had noted yesterday that there was no action on Colon. Though it is not yet clear how serious the interest is, the club likes both righties. One major issue for Kansas City, of course, is payroll, and Martino adds that the club may not be in a position to take on the salary (and significant future obligations) owed to Colon and Burnett. New York is said to be amenable to paying $2MM of Colon’s tab, but he is earning $9MM this year and comes with a guaranteed $11MM salary next year. Burnett, meanwhile, is making $7.5MM this year (in addition to a $7.5MM signing bonus) and comes with an option that will likely turn into a $12.75MM player option.
  • Emilio Bonifacio isn’t letting himself worry about the possibility of being traded by the Cubs, but Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago spoke to one NL official who feels that the utilityman would be a perfect last-minute addition on Thursday before the deadline. Rogers notes that if Bonifacio is traded, it could lead to a much-anticipated call-up for Javier Baez, wish Arismendy Alcantara manning center through season’s end and Baez taking over at the keystone. Currently, Bonifacio splits time between second and center.
  • The Pirates remain on the lookout for a left-handed reliever, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Pittsburgh has been rumored to have interest in severable available southpaws, including Antonio Bastardo of the Phillies and Andrew Miller of the Red Sox.

Jeff Todd contributed to this post.



Central Notes: Pirates, Ruggiano, Pirates, Bastardo

If the Pirates can’t land a reliever this week, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review suggests that the Bucs could move Edinson Volquez to the bullpen.  Volquez, who has hit 98 mph on the gun this season, has been trending down since April. More from the Central Divisions..


Added To The 40-Man Roster: Thursday

Between now and Opening Day, several minor league signees will win jobs with their clubs and earn 40-man roster spots. Here are today's additions:

  • As expected, the Mets have added lefty John Lannan to the 40-man roster, Newsday's Marc Carig tweets. The longtime starter is expected to work out of the pen for the first time in his career after serving exclusively as a starter for 148 games between 2007-13.
  • Jason Bartlett will make the Twins as a reserve infielder and center field option, tweets Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The 34-year-old had previously agreed to bump back his opt-out date. Though he has played exactly one MLB game at a position other than shortstop (a single 2004 appearance at second), Bartlett will apparently see some time in the outfield. He finds himself in position to break camp after taking just 98 professional plate appearances over the last two seasons.
  • 25-year-old outfielder Ryan Kalish will make the Cubs Opening Day roster and be added to its 40-man, tweets Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com. It was reported yesterday that the same was true of utilityman Emilio Bonifacio, per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (via Twitter). Chicago has two open roster slots, so no corresponding move would appear to be necessary. As Rogers notes, third baseman Mike Olt will also be on the active roster to start the year.

Cubs To Sign Emilio Bonifacio

2:14pm: Bonifacio will make $2.5MM, plus a possible $425K in incentives, if he makes the Cubs out of spring training, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweets. Bonifacio therefore will not make a league-minimum salary, as had previously been reported. Including the $574K Bonifacio will receive in termination pay from the Royals, his Cubs deal could pay him up to the $3.5MM he orginally would have received had he stuck with Kansas City.

10:53am: The Cubs have agreed to terms with infielder Emilio Bonifacio, Grupo Telemicro's Ildefonso Urena tweets. The agreement is for a minor-league deal, ESPN Chicago's Jesse Rogers reports. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that Bonifacio had Major-League offers from other teams, so it appears likely that he believes he will make the Cubs out of spring training. Bonifacio is represented by Kinzer Management Group.

The Royals had previously avoided arbitration with Bonifacio, signing him to a one-year, $3.5MM deal, but they designated him for assignment when they signed Bruce Chen, meaning they only had to pay a fraction of that $3.5MM salary. Bonifacio subsequently cleared release waivers, and became free to sign wherever he liked.

Bonifacio, 28, hit a relatively .243/.295/.331 in 461 plate appearances with the Blue Jays and Royals last season, but he can play second and third base and any outfield position, and he contributes good value on the bases. He also played shortstop semi-regularly as recently as 2011. Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney struggled last season, so Bonifacio could provide insurance at second if that happens again. He could also serve as a bench player.


Quick Hits: Bailey, Burnett, Twins, Samardzija

Even though most of Alex Rodriguez's 2014 salary will be wiped out by his season-long PED suspension, the controversial slugger's contract is still ranked as the worst in baseball by Grantland's Jonah Keri.  Of Keri's list of the 15 worst contracts in the sport, the Dodgers have four, the Yankees, Angels and Braves each have two and the Reds, Rangers, Phillies, Blue Jays and White Sox have one each.

Here are some items from around the baseball world…

  • The Reds and Homer Bailey are "still talking" about a multiyear contract, GM Walt Jocketty tells MLB.com's Mark Sheldon.  "There has not been a lot of progress, but good conversations anyhow," Jocketty said.  Bailey's arbitration hearing is scheduled for February 20 and there is a $2.9MM gap ($11.6MM to $8.7MM) between his demands and the Reds' offer for a 2014 contract.  This is Bailey's last season under contract with Cincinnati and the two sides are reportedly far apart on a long-term deal.  Sheldon suggests that the Reds will be watching the Indians' case with Justin Masterson, as he and Bailey have posted comparable numbers over the last three years and Masterson is also scheduled to be a free agent next offseason.
  • The Pirates offered A.J. Burnett a $12MM contract for 2014, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link).  This obviously fell short of the $16MM Burnett received from the Phillies earlier today.
  • The Twins aren't one of the teams interested in Emilio Bonifacio, 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson reports (via Twitter).  Bonifacio cleared release waivers and became a free agent earlier today.  The Orioles are known to be one of at least nine teams interested in the speedy utilityman.
  • Also from Wolfson, a Twins official said that the club "had extensive talks" about Erisbel Arruebarruena but he was judged to be too expensive.  The Cuban shortstop agreed to a deal with the Dodgers today that could be worth as much as $25MM.
  • The Cubs can afford to be patient in trading Jeff Samardzija, Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan argues, as teams may be more willing to meet Chicago's large asking price once the free agent pitching market thins out and teams get more desperate once the season begins.
  • Right-hander Josh Roenicke is drawing interest from a "handful of teams" and could be signed soon, a source tells MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo (Twitter link).  Roenicke posted a 4.35 ERA, 6.5 K/9 and 1.25 K/BB rate in 62 relief innings with the Twins in 2013 before being outrighted off Minnesota's roster in November.
  • Also from Cotillo, right-hander Blake Hawksworth has retired.  Hawksworth posted a 4.07 ERA and 1.85 K/BB over 124 games (eight as a starter) with the Cardinals and Dodgers from 2009-11 before elbow and shoulder injuries derailed his career.  Hawksworth has taken a job with the Boras Corporation, his former agency.
  • Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill discussed the club's recent signing of Carlos Marmol with Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald.
  • Luis Ayala chose to sign a minor league deal with the Nationals since they (as the Expos) were the franchise that originally signed him and he still has many friends in the organization, the veteran reliever tells Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.  Several teams were linked to Ayala this offseason but the bidding came down to the Nats, Tigers and Phillies.

Emilio Bonifacio Clears Release Waivers

Emilio Bonifacio has cleared release waivers and is now eligible to sign with any team as a free agent, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish.

The Royals avoided arbitration earlier with Bonifacio earlier this month, agreeing to a one-year, $3.5MM contract. However, since that time, they've agreed to bring lefty Bruce Chen back into the mix in 2014 and chosen to designate Bonifacio for assignment to clear roster space. The Royals were unable to find a trading partner and placed Bonifacio on release waivers two days ago. Arbitration contracts are not fully guaranteed, and as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports pointed out yesterday, Kansas City is only on the hook for roughly $575K of that $3.5MM guarantee.

Any team is now free to sign Bonifacio at any price. The speedy 28-year-old struggled to a .218/.258/.321 batting line in his short time with the Blue Jays but quickly turned it around upon arriving in Kansas City last year. With the Royals, Bonifacio slashed a healthy .285/.352/.348 in 179 plate appearances. He showed off his best tool — speed — by swiping 28 bases in 36 tries between the two clubs last season. Though he's not a gifted defender at most positions, Bonifacio is versatile; he comes with big league experience at second base, shortstop, third base and all three outfield positions. As many as nine clubs, including the Orioles, are said to have interest in the switch-hitter.


Central Links: Stetter, Bonifacio, Ryan, Harden

Former Brewers reliever Mitch Stetter announced on Twitter last night that he has retired from baseball and accepted a coaching job with the Royals. Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish tweets that Stetter will be the Double-A bullpen coach. Stetter, 33, hasn't appeared in the bigs since 2011 after his career was cut short by hip surgery and a back injury. From 2009-11 with the Brew Crew, Stetter posted a 3.46 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 5.7 BB/9 in 75 1/3 innings. While his command was clearly lacking, the southpaw held opposing lefties to just a .194/.310/.335 slash line in his career. Best of luck in your coaching career, Mitch.

Elsewhere in baseball's Central divisions…

  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the Royals will only be on the hook for about $575K of Emilio Bonifacio's salary if he clears release waivers tomorrow at 2pm ET and becomes a free agent. While a claim is unlikely, a number of teams are interested in Bonifacio, he adds in a second tweet.
  • Cotillo tweets that as many as nine teams have interest in Bonifacio. Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that the Orioles are one of those teams, pointing out that Bonifacio has long been a favorite of manager Buck Showalter. Besides that, the Orioles lack a clear starter at Bonifacio's best position — second base. However, Kubatko also tweets that Baltimore isn't interested in him at his $3.5MM salary, so a waiver claim isn't likely.
  • Twins GM Terry Ryan, who announced yesterday that he has cancer, is among the game's most respected general managers, writes Phil Rogers of MLB.com. Rogers recalls that Ryan displayed the ultimate selflessness a GM could show back in 2001 when, with the Twins facing contraction, Ryan turned down a chance to run the Blue Jays to stay with his club.
  • Right-hander Rich Harden wants to pitch in 2014 but won't sign anywhere until he's further along in his throwing, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. The Twins wouldn't rule out a return for Harden, even though the former ace never pitched for one of Minnesota's affiliates after signing a minor league deal with the club last offseason.

Royals Place Emilio Bonifacio On Release Waivers

FEB. 10: The Royals have requested unconditional release waivers on Bonifacio, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish. Any team can now claim Bonifacio if they are willing to take on the entirety of his $3.5MM salary. Those claims will be determined according to last year's league-wide standings and are not subject to the in-season rule that would give AL teams the first shot at him (2013 league-wide standings are also used for the first month of the regular season, as opposed to league-specific priority). Should he clear waivers, he will be a free agent and can then sign with a team of his choosing.

FEB. 1: The Royals have designated infielder Emilio Bonifacio for assignment, according to a team release. The move clears space on the Royals' roster for Bruce Chen. Bonifacio, who will be 29 in April, hit .243/.295/.331 in 461 plate appearances divided between the Royals and Blue Jays in 2013.

In mid-January, the Royals agreed to a one-year, $3.5MM deal with him to avoid arbitration, so it comes as a surprise that they would designate him for assignment two weeks later. Chen's $3MM salary essentially replaces Bonifacio's $3.5MM, and arbitration contracts are not guaranteed, so the decision to designate Bonifacio may have been a matter of making room for Chen in the Royals' budget. The Royals could well trade Bonifacio in the next ten days. Pedro Ciriaco could pick up playing time as a utility infielder in Bonifacio's place.