While I’m not a fan of the James McCann signing, I at least understand why the White Sox picked him up earlier today. The Sox needed a catcher between Welington Castillo and Seby Zavala, and McCann is that.
This evening, the White Sox traded for Yonder Alonso. It only cost them Alex Call, a superfluous outfielder in the Birmingham logjam, so the exchange isn’t the problem. It’s just hard to determine the chief motive, and then the fallout.
Alonso checks off some boxes — a lefty bat with some power and an understanding of the strike zone. The Indians tried to cut a corner by signing him to a two-year deal that was cheaper than Carlos Santana’s, but they didn’t get all the production back at first base. Over 574 plate appearances with Cleveland in 2018, Alonso hit an unremarkable .250/.317/.421. The 23 homers were OK, but the 19 other extra-base hits left a lot to be desired. Ultimately, he still needs right-handed help to carry a position.
The Indians ended up going back to the way things were. They regained Santana by trading Edwin Encarnacion to Seattle in an exchange of big salaries, which made the fellow first baseman Alonso wonder what it meant for him. He posted a tweet with the quizzical emoji, which has been since deleted.
Now Alonso is apparently heading to Chicago, and that emoji still comes in handy.
The deal makes sense on Cleveland’s side. It saves the Indians at least $9 million (a $8 million salary for 2019, followed by a $9 million club option or $1 million buyout), so they may not have to trade a pitcher. They’ll also now have an idea of what their team might’ve looked like had they just stayed the course after 2016.
So it’s clear what this accomplishes for the Indians. For the Sox, while he theoretically slots in at first and DH alongside Jose Abreu, it might be more about a sales pitch.
You see, Alonso is Manny Machado’s brother-in-law, and the White Sox supposedly have a meeting with Machado on Monday.
Hey, it worked in 2004. The White Sox beat all contenders to the punch for Freddy Garcia a month before the trade deadline. It didn’t make much sense for the out-of-the-running Sox until they signed him to a contract extension 10 days later. The fact that Garcia was close to Guillen — related by marriage, in fact — helped.
Maybe that’s what’s going on here, because helping a division rival free up some payroll for an unnecessary player who won’t make a difference on the Sox seems somewhat self-defeating at this point.
Either that, or the White Sox now have a feasible first baseman to step in should they trade Jose Abreu, but White Sox Vessel Bob Nightengale says that isn’t happening.
Either way, Alonso’s club option past the season doesn’t put the Sox’ incumbent first baseman in a great position. Unless, perhaps, the White Sox are just trying to accrue as many Cubans as possible for the long haul. If so, Abreu’s not going anywhere anytime soon.