After acquiring Carlos Santana and Jake Bauers in trades on Thursday, the Cleveland Indians suddenly had a plethora of first base options on the roster. The Tribe removed one of those candidates on Friday night, when the team traded first baseman Yonder Alonso to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder prospect Alex Call.
In a clear cost-cutting move by the Indians front office, Cleveland dealt Alonso and his $8 million contract for 2019 to the southside of Chicago for Call, who adds another needed piece of outfield depth to the organization after the club lost Michael Brantley, Melky Cabrera, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Rajai Davis to free agency and cut ties with Brandon Guyer already this offseason.
The trade of Alonso follows several other financially-driven ventures by the Tribe this offseason, as the club has moved on from Yan Gomes, Edwin Encarnacion, and Yandy Diaz while adding in cheaper alternatives at first base in Santana and Bauers. The trade could easily be considered as a salary dump, as the White Sox will pay the $8 million owed to Alonso this season as well as the $1 million buyout of his option for 2020 that revolved around plate appearances (this option was to vest for $9 million if Alonso totaled 550 plate appearances in 2019 or 1,100 total in his two years under contract).
Now, the team may feel less pressured to move one of their starting pitchers – namely Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer – as they now can reinvest some of the money saved on free agent alternatives on the open market. However, a simple look at prospective lineups on paper leaves plenty to be desired and fishing for affordable fixes on the marketplace may not make the one through nine look any more threatening.
“I think we’ve had a couple of goals going into the offseason and that’s first and foremost trying to make sure we have a team that’s capable of winning the American League Central in 2019, but also position the organization for sustaining success beyond that,” said team president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti on Saturday. “There are a couple ways to do that. One is to infuse young, controllable talent into the organization and the second element of that is to manage our finances.”
Alonso’s addition brought plenty of run production to the Indians lineup last season after what was considered a curious signing in the offseason after the team lost Santana to a free agent payday in Philadelphia. Alonso drove in a career-high 83 runs on the year and was a regular in the batting order for manager Terry Francona, working in 145 games at first base and designated hitter. His 23 homers were fourth on the club, after Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, and Encarnacion. With Alonso’s subtraction, the Indians have moved on from four of their top seven home run hitters of a season ago.
Alonso will reunite with Rick Renteria in Chicago. The two spent 2012 and 2013 together while Renteria served the San Diego Padres as their bench coach. The motivation on the White Sox’s end to spend money on Alonso does draw some head scratching, but it may have been done in an effort to lure free agent infielder Manny Machado to Chicago, where the team has been rumored to be interested in his services as well as other top free agent target Bryce Harper. Alonso and Machado are brothers-in-law.
Call is a 24-year-old right-handed hitting outfielder capable of playing all three spots, spending approximately 40% of his game time in both center field and right field and the other 20% in left. He just completed his third season in pro ball after being selected by the White Sox in the third round of the 2016 draft out of Ball State. After a successful .308/.394/.445 effort in two stops and 73 games in 2016, he struggled through an intercostal strain and slashed just .207/.295/.316 in 61 games in 2017. The injury cost him more than two months of his first full season in pro ball and limited him to ten games at High-A, 38 games at Class-A, and 13 rehab games in the Arizona League.
Last season, he began his second stint at High-A Winston-Salem, posting a .256/.368/.421 line at the plate in 56 games with eleven doubles, three triples, five homers, and 28 RBI. He wrapped up his season with 67 games at Double-A Birmingham, where he showed a consistent power effort at the plate (17 doubles, one triple, seven homers) while putting up a .242/.325/.411 slash.
With the removal of Alonso from the roster, the Indians have Santana and Bauers lined up for time at first base and DH at the present, with prospect Bobby Bradley on the 40-man roster waiting in the wings at Triple-A Columbus.
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