Bonifacio ‘just didn’t work out’ for Blue Jays

The Chicago Cubs have signed speedy utility man Emilio Bonifacio to a minor-league deal with an invitation to big-league camp (Nathan Denette/CP)

Emilio Bonifacio’s partial season in Toronto didn’t work out the way the Blue Jays hoped. Not with the bat, not with the glove, not on the bases.

So after 94 games in Toronto, the utility player who once excited Blue Jays decision makers has become the property of the Kansas City Royals.

“He couldn’t seem to put it together,” general manager Alex Anthopoulos explained Wednesday. “Hard to explain. It happens.

“He’s been a very good player in the past, the talent is still there, it just wasn’t able to work out.”

Bonifacio hit .218 with a .258 on-base percentage and three home runs after joining the Blue Jays in last winter’s blockbuster trade with the Miami Marlins. He was as versatile as expected, playing second base, shortstop and all three outfield positions.

But the 28-year-old struggled defensively at times, and his legs — an apparent strength entering the season — didn’t generate as much value as anticipated. It adds up to a disappointing acquisition for Anthopoulos.

“We expected him to be a better player,” the GM said. “A better player overall. We thought we’d get more out of him offensively, defensively. That didn’t happen. I don’t want to diminish his talent, or take away his work ethic … sometimes guys have down years.”

Bonifacio, who stole 40 bases in 2011 and 30 bases in 2012, recorded 12 steals in Toronto while getting caught six times. Pick a stat from batting average to stolen bases to wins above replacement, and Bonifacio fell short of his career norms.

“It just didn’t work out,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons explained. “A ton of talent, he got some opportunities, it just never really came together on a consistent basis.

“He shows up to play and he made some things happen, it’s just there wasn’t enough consistency there.”

The move, which came together early Wednesday following a waiver claim, sends Bonifacio to Kansas City for a player to be named later or cash. Anthopoulos suggested there’s a good chance the Blue Jays will accept cash from Kansas City to complete the trade by mid-September.

In Bonifacio’s absence, the Blue Jays will rely on Maicer Izturis and Munenori Kawasaki at second base. Gibbons inserted Kawasaki into Wednesday’s lineup and suggested pre-game that he could lean on the fan favourite to provide Izturis with some rest.

“I think Izzy looks a little worn down to be honest with you,” Gibbons said “I think he plays better — well, they all do they’re when they’re fresh. We’ll play them both there.”

Both Izturis and Kawasaki are under team control beyond 2013, which makes it easier to part with Bonifacio, who also had one year of team control remaining.

The Blue Jays could have retained Bonifacio through the arbitration process, but he earns $2.6 million in 2013 and has played often enough to obtain a raise for 2014.

Evidently, the Blue Jays would rather shed approximately $650,000 in 2013 payroll, obtain something extra from Kansas City within the month, create 40-man roster space, and rule Bonifacio out of their 2013 plans.

In those respects, the move resembles an early non-tender. It’s definitely not what the team expected last winter.

“We were really excited about him, and obviously it didn’t work out,” Anthopoulos said.

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