Professional bench solutions

I knew I was supposed to strongly approve of the Emilio Bonifacio signing when it was originally announced, but I had a hard time getting particularly excited for it. A light-hitting utility man most prominently featured in center field and second base, and mostly anticipated to provide veteran stability to the latter, Bonifacio carries a slappy .262/.319/.341 career line after fluttering down from a hot start to a .259/.305/.345 season in 2014.

For $4 million, it seemed like the Sox were paying for Gordon Beckham production without the burden of Gordon Beckham disappointment. With switch-hitting.

Thursday, the accidental symbolism of DFA'ing Jordan Danks to clear space on the 40-man for Bonifacio places his purpose into clear relief. After a few years of making a point of not spending on what they did not have to spend on, the White Sox are overcorrecting; paying for assurance of bench-worthy production rather than just hoping on minor league depth to pull it out of their keister.

Leury Garcia could probably "catch fire" and slap his way to a .650 OPS while being fast enough to cover his goof-ups at multiple positions, but we've also seen he's plenty capable of slapping a game-winning single, inexplicably clocking a home run to dead center in Chavez Ravine, and then, by my calculations, striking out in every other single plate appearance of the season (give or take). The difference between that ceiling and floor was irrelevant last year, but is a pointless thing to endure in a competitive season.

For that matter, so is sitting through Jordan Danks' 2014 while betting on him to duplicate his 2013. The White Sox have put in pieces that we all feel great about, but aren't starting Mike Trout at every position, and will need certain production to triumph. Since I've chided them every time they have pretended to not being able to afford to pay up, I have to ideologically support them ponying up. 

It would feel better to do so if Bonifacio was particularly good. He has no power, doesn't put the ball in play too much. He'll make us happiest hitting lefties when Conor Gillaspie can't, and stealing bases at an efficient clip. Being better than the badness we never imagined other plays could sink to is not a glorious role, but Bonifacio feels like a legitimate bench solution that a high-end team searching league-wide for a suitable candidate would reach, rather than the younger brother of someone already on the team. That's an unfair slander of Jordan Danks, but unfortunately the benefit of swapping him out for Bonifacio is very identity-based. We know how much he, and the other homegrown margins of the Sox roster can struggle to look like major leaguers. Moving on from them reflects a seriousness that is more encouraging than Bonifacio himself.


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