By any stretch of the imagination, trading for Cleveland’s Yonder Alonso is one ballsy move.
Imagine Monday’s meeting with Manny Machado ... you want to talk about a friggin’ full-court press on a prospective free agent? Hey Manny, I literally just traded for your brother-in-law. This is how seriously we want you in our infield. There are 29 other teams. How many of them traded for one of your family members?
I mean, sure, it could come across as stalky-creepy, too, but I’m guessing these guys going on ballpark tours and measuring new cash-holding Samsonites care not for creepy, as long as the creep crams the cash into the suitcase.
But really, is the acquisition of Alonso all about enticing Machado?
Well, how can’t it be?
Alonso plays first base, where the White Sox already have a better hitting option in José Abreu — who
the White Sox front officeBob Nightengale tweets WILL NOT BE MOVED.
- Alonso is a power-hitting lefty, which the White Sox already have in the form of beer-drinkin’, hell-raisin’ Daniel Palka.
- Alonso’s $8 million salary currently represents 10.2% of the White Sox’s current payroll. He has a a $1 million team buyout for 2020, but possesses an attainable vesting option that locks him into the White Sox at $9 million in 2020.
Beyond that, there are very real risks to acquiring Alonso. On the field, he had a tepid slash of .250/.317/.421 in 2018 — marks significantly subpar to Abreu, who had his worst season. Was that a one-season blip, or the beginning of Alonso’s decline?
In the transaction itself, the only cost to the White Sox was Double A-logjammed outfielder Alex Call, who bounced back in 2018 but is due to soon drown in the quicksand of Triple-A pitching and/or the Luis Basabe/Micker Adolfo/Luis Gonzalez/Blake Rutherford/Luis Robert blitzkrieg.
Off the field carries a risk greater than Call turning into all that: Taking a $9-to-17 million obligation to Alonso off of the hands of a cash-strapped division rival. If it turns out that the White Sox absorbing Alonso was the fulcrum allowing Cleveland to keep both Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, the White Sox may need much more than Manny Machado to make acquiring the 1B/DH a worthwhile gambit.
But more on that, in a minute ...
This isn’t to say that Alonso doesn’t offer advantages to the White Sox. He is a better defender than Abreu at first base. (There’s a claim that Alonso can fill in at the other corner, but he’s a full two seasons removed from even spot duty at third base, so that ship has sailed.)
With regard to fellow lefty masher Palka, Alonso is less of a three-outcomes guy. Alonso can take a walk, with a career .336 on-base percentage (although he dipped to .317 in 2018). Palka’s K% a year ago surpassed even the 215 K man, Yoán Moncada, at a team-worst 34.1%; Alonso sported a tidier 21.4 K%, and has never risen worse than 23.7% in a season.
You might be tempted to call this Alonso swap the hitting equivalent of the Iván Nova trade. In Nova, the White Sox got a guy who will take on an innings load and do his best to drag the staff’s high BB% down; Alonso, with regular ABs, should drag the K% down, and inject a little life into the White Sox BB%.
But, there’s the rub: Where the at-bats gonna come from?
Well, let’s table that issue for now, and focus on what appears to be the much more important role Alonso may play for the White Sox — Alonso as the gateway drug to more potent intoxicants, like Yasmani Grandal and Machado.
The Machado angle is easy enough to map. The two players are related by marriage, live in Miami. Presumably, they get along pretty well ... otherwise, Hahn may have made the biggest trade blunder since Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns weren’t sure if they were trading MarShon or Dillon Brooks.
But, again, how boss is it, in prep for a meeting with Machado, the franchise-altering free agent you desperately want and need, for Hahn to say Dude, this is how we play in Chicago. We’re meeting on Monday? Well, then let’s get your BIL in town by Friday.
So, is there a second part to securing Alonso in the offing, beyond a Fourth of July family BBQ enticement to Machado? Oh yeah.
A certain switch-hitting, framing ace is on the market this winter, who the White Sox have reportedly targeted, along with the balance of the major leagues: Grandal.
Grandal, who was extended a qualifying offer by the Los Angeles Dodgers, will cost the White Sox their second-round pick in the 2019 draft, in addition to $15-18 million per annum. His defensive work alone — and the effect he’ll have on the colicky White Sox staff — should make that price worthwhile.
Grandal and Alonso aren’t related. They’re better than related — they’re bros. The two both left Cuba at a young age, for the promise of the United States. They were Cincinnati Reds prospects together, and together were sent to the San Diego Padres in the same trade, for ... wait, this can’t be right ... Mat Latos?
After that trade, speaking of the duo’s chances of making their major league debut together in 2012, Grandal told ESPN: “It just seems like we’re a package deal wherever we go.”
That package may have gotten a bit roughed up in the holiday mail crush on Friday, as the White Sox ostensibly wrapped up their backstop shopping for the season, inking the wrong McCann, James, to a one-year, $2.5 million deal.
Nothing to get too pissy about. The White Sox, wishing to keep Seby Zavala and Zack Collins in the safer confines of Charlotte for another year, needed a stopgap catcher. And McCann is nothing if not a stopgap — no hit, no frame, but a killer arm, at least (Lucas Giolito has already penned a thank-you card to the White Sox F.O.).
Has McCann, then, snapped up the last set of shin guards for the Chisox? Nay.
Listen, if Yasmani Grandal listens to his heart and follows countryman Alonso to Chicago, the White Sox will ship off Welington Castillo, gift-wrapped, to whichever runner-up to Grandal is shedding a tiny tear over the loss: the Angels, New York Mets, et. al. Failing that, Hahn could ship Castillo to the Seattle Mariners, where he’ll become another toy for Jerry DiPoto to unwrap, get quickly bored by, and trade off.
So, does Alonso stitching full-time work from partial 1B and DH play enough to pull two of the three most prominent position player free agents to the South Side?
Take it away, Yasmani: It just seems like we’re a package deal wherever we go.