Good face, bad player: Why track records matter

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It’s a bad sign when you’re hitting .247/.296/.300 for the fifth-worst OPS in the league and the local newspaper is running articles questioning your defense.

Such is the life of Emilio Bonifacio, who got some people way too excited
with a few great games to begin the season and has since predictably
lived up to his minor-league track record by being one of the worst
everyday players in baseball.

Back in mid-April, when Bonifacio was sporting a .500 batting average after a handful of games, Jon Heyman of SI.com wrote about
how “Florida stole an undervalued speed demon ready to contribute” when
they acquired him from Arizona. Here’s more from Heyman’s glowing
piece:

But the Marlins knew better. And now, a week into his Marlins
career, Bonifacio, who moves faster on the diamond than anyone in
baseball, has moved up in everyone else’s eyes. Those outside the
Marlins organization once again view the 23-year-old as an exciting
young player after watching him ignite the Marlins offense with a .500
batting average, exhibit the best baseball speed since Deion Sanders
and lead his club to a 5-1 start.

The Marlins’ scouts seem to know things others do not, so they
figured it might be worthwhile to give Bonifacio, primarily a second
baseman, a look at third base. So far the slap-hitting speed demon has
looked like a star at a position normally reserved for power hitters.
Bonifacio put together multiple-hit efforts in the Marlins’ first five
games of the season and produced enough theatrics to excite even the
minimal crowds they draw down here.

Keep in mind that those words were written about a player who had
produced a .703 OPS over 656 games in the minors and .629 OPS over 60
games the majors coming into this season. And while Heyman was one of
the more vocal Bonifacio bandwagon occupants, he certainly wasn’t alone.

There were all kinds of articles popping up about his supposed
“breakout” and there were all kinds of angry missives in my e-mailbox
about my “unfair” skepticism. Yet for all the talk of how “the Marlins’
scouts seem to know things others do not” and all the hyperbole about
Bonifacio possessing “the best baseball speed since Deion Sanders” at
the end of the day he’s performing exactly like his minor-league track
record predicted.

And since starting the season with 14 hits in 24 at-bats, Bonifacio
has batted .213 with a .272 on-base percentage, .238 slugging
percentage, zero homers, and a 41/14 K/BB ratio while being thrown out
on four of his nine steal attempts in 38 games. I’m sure that his
“theatrics” are still off the charts, though.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.