Updated: February 16, 2014 12:02AM
MESA, Ariz. — The Cubs on Saturday signed utility player Emilio Bonifacio to a minor-league deal with an invitation to camp that is expected to lead to a spot on the Opening Day roster.
Bonifacio, 29, was waived by the Kansas City Royals earlier in the week and went unclaimed because of a $3.5 million contract. His contract with the Royals was terminated for a fraction of the cost once he cleared waivers.
If Bonifacio makes the big-league club, he’ll earn $2.5 million. He reportedly turned down big-league offers from other clubs.
“His skill set is significant in that he can run and put the ball in play and in the different, versatile positions that he’s able to participate at,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s definitely a National League ballplayer.”
The veteran of seven years and five teams has stolen at least 28 bases in the last three seasons. He’s played six positions in that span: all three outfield spots, second base, third and shortstop.
Bonifacio is a career .262 hitter with 136 steals in 612 games. After being traded from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Royals in August, he hit .285 in his final 42 games with a .352 on-base percentage and 16 steals in 18 attempts.
Coming off arthroscopic knee surgery, starting catcher Welington Castillo likely will have his workload lessened at least early in spring training.
“We’re going to monitor the innings he’s catching,” Renteria said. “But he’s working hard, and [Saturday] he was doing fine.”
Renteria said he anticipates using Castillo as he normally would during the regular season, assuming his spring goes well.