Major League Baseball has announced an 80-game suspension without pay for Royals outfielder Jorge Bonifacio, Joel Sherman of the New York Post was among those to report (Twitter link). Bonifacio tested positive for Boldenone, a performance-enhancing substance. His ban will open up roster space for third baseman Mike Moustakas, whom the Royals just re-signed.
In response to Bonifacio’s suspension, Royals general manager Dayton Moore said (via Rustin Dodd of The Athletic): “This obviously [is] a very disappointing situation for the Royals, our fans and Jorge. He is an incredible person who simple made a mistake. Jorge will have our full support as he deals with the consequences.”
The 24-year-old Bonifacio, formerly a well-regarded prospect, is coming off his first major league season. Across 422 plate appearances, the right-handed hitter slashed .255/.320/.432 with 17 home runs to essentially grade as a league-average offensive performer (99 wRC+). He also saw 808 innings in the outfield, mostly in right (743), and ended up with minus-3 Defensive Runs Saved and a plus-o.3 Ultimate Zone Rating.
Coming off a respectable rookie campaign, Bonifacio was the front-runner to start in right for the Royals on Opening Day, but the team will now have to make other plans for the first couple months of 2018. The club just signed veteran Jon Jay, who figures to join long-tenured Royal Alex Gordon in occupying starting spots. Other outfield options on the 40-man roster include Jorge Soler, Paulo Orlando, Hunter Dozier, former top prospect Bubba Starling (who’s dealing with an oblique injury) and perhaps second baseman Whit Merrifield, whom the Royals have tried in the grass in recent weeks. Kansas City also has Michael Saunders, Cody Asche and Tyler Collins on hand as experienced big leaguers who are in spring training as non-roster invitees.
In the event they’re not content with their in-house selections, the Royals could once again venture to free agency, where they’ve been active recently with the signings of Moustakas, Jay and Lucas Duda. There are some proven (albeit flawed) outfield options available via that route, with ex-Royals Melky Cabrera and Brandon Moss, Seth Smith, Jose Bautista, Jayson Werth, Andre Ethier and Matt Holliday among them. Infielder Neil Walker is also unsigned, and although he’s not an outfielder, he’d upgrade the Royals’ position player group in the wake of Bonifacio’s ban. The Royals showed interest in Walker recently.