While trying to put the bitter disappointment that was the 2014 Brewers season in the rearview mirror, the team’s front office has made it the goal not to overreact to the truly horrific collapse. Though many fans have been screaming for wholesale lineup changes, the management team has taken a conservative approach, as I think they should. As currently assembled, the Brewers are a pretty solid team and should contend next year if everyone plays to their ability level. The team doesn’t need a big name acquisition to push their postseason chase over the top, but there is one player that can instantly make this team better for 2015. His name is Emilio Bonifacio.
Bonifacio, 29, has been a journeyman to this point in his career, but has made his name as one of the most versatile players in the game today. Last season for the Cubs and Braves, Emilio was a plus defender at second, third, and all three outfield spots, posting a UZR/150 of at least 10.6 at each position. Bonifacio also has experience at shortstop, though his defensive marks there are less favorable and he hasn’t manned the position much since 2011.
The switch hitter provides decent value with his bat, but is a true threat against left-handed pitching. He’s hit southpaws to the tune of .291/.340/.380 in 690 at bats, including .365/.411/.548 in 2014. Bonifacio is a speedster and pesky on the base paths as well, stealing 26 bases last year and as many as 40 in 2011.
As it stands today, Scooter Gennett is slated to play second base every day next season, with Rickie Weeks leaving via free agency. Scooter put up a laughable line of .103/.128/.128 line off lefties in 2014, and has only one extra base hit in 83 career plate appearances against them.
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While the popular argument is that “Scooter can’t learn if he doesn’t play against them,” I rebut that with six players on one year contracts, 2015 should be an “all-in” campaign. GM Doug Melvin needs to do anything he can to make the team better for this coming year, and the Brewers can worry about Scooter hitting lefties when they’re rebuilding in 2016. A platoon of Gennett and Bonifacio at second base would maximize both players’ value in the lineup.
The Brewers bench has taken a huge hit this offseason, losing Mark Reynolds and Weeks to free agency and Lyle Overbay to retirement. With guys like Elian Herrera and Luis Jimenez currently projected as the primary infield backups, the bench could benefit greatly from having a proven veteran in Bonifacio. In fact, the Brewers current bench combined for a WAR less than the 1.0 Emilio himself put up as a part-timer last season.
Bonifacio definitely wouldn’t be a player who would break the Brewers bank. For a utility man of his caliber, Emilio could likely be had on a two year deal worth between $6-8 million. While there have been some grumblings in regards to a tight payroll, the Brewers could offset his possible signing by dealing outfielder Gerardo Parra. Bonifacio’s switch-hit bat and experience in the outfield would make Parra and his projected $6.4 mil salary (per MLB Trade Rumors) expendable. Parra could be flipped for relief pitching to a team like the Orioles or Giants, who are in search of outfield help. Beyond Emilio, the Brewers have other options like Logan Schafer and recent waiver claim Shane Peterson as backup outfielders.
The Brewers are a team that should be World Series or bust for next year. While they don’t need an everyday bat to put in the lineup, they need to bring in a proven veteran to solidify their weak bench. Emilio Bonifacio would be a perfect fit for this Brewers team as they ride towards the Championship Season in 2015.