Bonifacio dealt to KC for cash or player to be named
Speedy utilityman didn't live up to expectations after joining Toronto in trade
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays aren't planning to undergo another rebuild, but the minor tinkering began Wednesday afternoon when utilityman Emilio Bonifacio was dealt to the Royals.
Bonifacio was claimed off waivers by Kansas City on Tuesday and the following day was let go by Toronto in exchange for a player to be named or cash considerations.
The minor trade puts an end to Bonifacio's brief tenure in a Blue Jays uniform that began with a lot of promise, but resulted in a disappointing year at the plate and in the field.
"We were really excited about him and obviously it didn't work out with respect to his performance," Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said Wednesday afternoon. "He's a tremendous guy, everything that we heard about him from that respect was certainly there, but whether it's offensively or even stolen-base percentage, he just couldn't seem to put it together.
"It happens, obviously we wish -- I'm sure he does as well -- the performance had been a little bit [better]. But at the same time, he has been a very good player in the past, the talent is still there, it just didn't work out here."
Bonifacio was part of Toronto's blockbuster trade with Miami during the offseason that also saw Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle join the Blue Jays. Even though Bonifacio didn't have nearly the same type of pedigree as the other three players, he was considered a key component of the deal.
Anthopoulos stated in the offseason that the trade almost fell through because of Toronto's insistence that Bonifacio be included. The Marlins eventually relented and Bonifacio was added into the mix with the expectation that he would compete for the starting job at second base and at the very least provide much-needed depth to the bench.
Toronto's strong interest was understandable considering Bonifacio was just two years removed from posting a .360 on-base percentage in Miami. Even during an injury plagued 2012 campaign with the Marlins, Bonifacio managed to steal 30 bases in just 64 games and had the tools to become a lethal weapon for manager John Gibbons to use as he saw fit.
The strong track record, though, didn't carry over into his first season in the American League. Bonifacio hit just .218 with a .258 on-base percentage and 12 stolen bases in 18 attempts. The problems on defense were even more glaring as Bonifacio committed seven errors at second before losing almost all of his playing time to infielder Maicer Izturis.
Bonifacio was a likely non-tender candidate at the end of the season, but by dealing him now the Blue Jays opened up playing time for some of their younger players. Outfielder Kevin Pillar had his contract purchased from Triple-A Buffalo on Wednesday afternoon and is expected to get an extended look in left field during the final six weeks of the season.
"Kansas City had some interest in him, arbitration eligible at the end of the year, and going forward it's probably better for him to get a chance to go the Royals," Anthopoulos said of Bonifacio. "They're playing pretty well right now. Also for us to get some other guys playing time, especially in the outfield. We made the decision to get some other guys at-bats."
Anthopoulos became the talk of Major League Baseball during the offseason as he orchestrated not only the trade with Miami but also a deal with the Mets for R.A. Dickey, along with the free-agent signings of Melky Cabrera and Izturis.
The moves were expected to turn the Blue Jays into a legitimate playoff contender, but at least for the 2013 season, it hasn't worked out. Bonifacio proved to be a disappointment, while Johnson's year could possibly be over because of a right forearm injury.
Johnson is set for free agency at the end of the year and might not return, but the remaining pieces are all signed long-term as the Blue Jays shift their attention to 2014 and beyond. Reyes is locked up through the 2017 season, while Buehrle is signed until the end of 2015, but has more than $37 million remaining on his contract.
Reyes will continue to be a focal point of the Blue Jays and Buehrle has been one of the only pitchers to pitch as expected this season. The problem is those two players ended up costing Toronto the likes of Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jake Marisnick, Henderson Alvarez, Anthony DeSclafani, Justin Nicolino and Jeff Mathis.
Anthopoulos knows all too well there is no way of knowing with absolute certainty what to expect from any player. But at the time he felt strongly about the move and while there might be some second-guessing, Anthopoulos remains confident about the work that went into putting everything together.
"I think you always look through your process overall," Anthopoulos said. "I think the thought process behind everything was correct. Sometimes guys don't perform in the same way that sometimes you sign guys to contracts and whether they're your own players or free agents, they don't always pan out.
"Sometimes it happens the following year -- obviously with Boni being gone, it's not an option. But I think you always review. Clearly they haven't played and performed the way we expected them to when we acquired them. There's no doubt about that at all, but the process when you go into these things, you know there's no guarantees of performance."