KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the last several years, the Royals have been searching for a solution at second base.
In that time span, they’ve also been searching for a prototypical No. 2 hitter.
With Emilio Bonifacio, they may have hit the jackpot.
Since being acquired from the Blue Jays last month, Bonifacio, 28, has been exactly the type of spark plug the Royals have been coveting.
And since he was inserted into the No. 2 spot in the batting order Aug. 24, both he and the Royals have caught fire.
The Royals are 13-6 since that day, and Bonifacio is hitting .329 with six steals and 15 runs scored.
Bonifacio, in fact, may be the most pleasant true surprise of the season, considering that the Royals weren’t exactly sure what they were getting after he hit just .218 with the Jays this season.
“I have no idea why he didn’t hit with the Jays,” general manager Dayton Moore says. “At this point, it doesn’t really matter. We’re just happy he’s with us.”
The Royals actually had interest in acquiring Bonifacio from the Marlins earlier in his career, and according to a team source, tried to make a deal for him before the July 31 trading deadline.
Now that they finally have him, the question becomes: Have the Royals solved the second-base riddle moving forward?
Moore is noncommittal at this point.
“We’re learning a lot about him,” Moore says. “That’s the most important thing. He has that switch-hitting element, which is important. If he gets on base, he can do some things. He’s got that speed. With our ballpark, he fits.
“He’s doing very well defensively. He brings energy and versatility. But I can’t predict the future.”
It’s no secret the Royals have had two areas of concern all season — second base and right field. And it’s possible that Moore just filled one with Bonifacio. That could make Moore’s off-season wish list a bit shorter.
“Well, I guess in some ways it could,” Moore says. “We’re going to look to upgrade our team in a lot of ways. We have to make sure our pitching stays intact, and there’s no reason to think it won’t.
“But really, we’re just focused on right now.”
Still, one can’t help but get excited about the possibility of Bonifacio resurrecting his career with the Royals. This is a guy who hit .296 in 2011 with the Marlins with a .360 on-base percentage and 40 steals.
In my mind, he’s the perfect solution, at the very least in the short term, especially as the team continues to wait for 2010 first-round pick Christian Colon to develop in the minors.
Bonifacio also is affordable. He is making $2.6 million this season and will have another year of arbitration this off-season.
Manager Ned Yost can’t help but gush about Bonifacio.
“He’s got a bunch of different tools in his repertoire that he can use to help you win ballgames,” Yost says. “It’s a fun skill set to watch. There’s speed. He can bunt. He can slash. He’s a switch-hitter. He’s got great range. He turns two well at second base. Can play multiple positions. He’s a fun, exciting player to watch.
“Two years ago, when he was playing for Miami, he was one of the most sought-after players on that team.”
And now, Bonifacio may have turned his career around here, which is the kind of good fortune small-market teams need to stumble upon every now and then.
Bonifacio thinks the simple change of scenery is all he needed.
“I feel very comfortable here,” he says. “It’s great to be playing for something. I have an opportunity here to play every day, so I really enjoy that, and feel like I am being a help to the team. That’s all I want.”
The opportunity to play every day shouldn’t be a problem here, now and in 2014.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.