Chen officially back in fold; Bonifacio designated
Super-utility man became expendable to make room for veteran hurler
KANSAS CITY -- Finally, pitcher Bruce Chen is officially on the Royals' roster. But, surprisingly, projected super-utility player Emilio Bonifacio is gone.
Bonifacio was designated for assignment on Saturday to make room for Chen on the 40-man roster.
Although Bonifacio finished last season as the Royals' regular second baseman, he was bumped to bench duty by the long-term signing of Omar Infante for that position. Even so, Bonifacio was seen as a backup all around the infield and, if necessary, in the outfield.
"We felt like we needed another starter in Bruce and looking at it, with the acquisition of [infielder Danny] Valencia and the signing of Infante, it just made more sense for our roster at this point," general manager Dayton Moore said.
"I know Emilio is looking for the opportunity to play a lot more than we would have provided. And we've [got] several other options in the outfield that we like. So it just made the most sense."
In addition to a trade-off in bodies, Chen for Bonifacio, it also represented a financial move, as well. Bonifacio was set to earn $3.5 million this year, but now that can used instead to cover most of Chen's 2014 earnings.
Chen's contract is worth at least $4.25 million. It breaks down like this for 2014: $3 million base salary, plus performance bonuses of $125,000 for each start 16 through 25 (a possible $1.25 million). And for 2015: a mutual option for $5.5 million, with a buyout of $1.25 million.
The Royals' projected payroll for 2014 is between $85 million and $90 million, Moore said.
The Royals have 10 days in which Bonifacio can be traded or simply cut loose to become a free agent.
Other considerations behind the move were that, even if he stayed, Bonifacio could become a free agent at the end of the 2014 season. By contrast, third baseman Valencia is under the team's control for another four years. Also, outfielders Jarrod Dyson and Justin Maxwell are under team control for another four and three years, respectively.
Valencia and Maxwell represent more power than Bonifacio, and Dyson has more speed. Not that Bonifacio lacked considerable skills -- in 42 games for the Royals, he hit .285 with eight extra-base hits, 11 RBIs and 16 stolen bases. Between his time with the Blue Jays and Royals, Bonifacio started at six different positions -- second, third, short, left, center and right.
His departure leaves Valencia as the primary backup or possible option for Mike Moustakas at third base. It also opens competition for a middle-infield backup spot to the likes of Christian Colon, Pedro Ciriaco and Johnny Giavotella.
"Emilio did a terrific job for us," Moore said. "He's a great person and he has a great desire to win and, unfortunately, he's not going to be with us. But he'll be an asset for another team."
Also missed in the Royals' camp this year will be some brotherly bonding. Bonifacio's younger brother, Jorge, is a rising outfield prospect and has been invited to the Major League camp.
Chen has already been anointed a rotation regular by manager Ned Yost, coming behind James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas. Chen split last year, his fifth with the Royals, between the bullpen and rotation -- and finished strong as a starter.
"He's as good a pitcher as we had last year," Moore said.
Even so, Chen has been around long enough to know his rotation status could change in an instant.
"I'm not going to take anything for granted," he said.
Chen, checking in to sign autographs and meet fans at Saturday's final session of the Royals FanFest, said he decided between the Royals and one other unnamed team.
"At one point, I didn't think I was going to be back here. But it's crazy how things work out," Chen said. "I was confident something could be reached with the Royals."
Bonifacio, though, will be searching for a job elsewhere.
"We've got decisions [we've] got to make -- tough decisions -- and this was a tough decision," Yost said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.