The stated reasons for Yonder Alonso don’t add up(Keith Allison / Flickr)

The stated reasons for Yonder Alonso don’t add up

Everybody’s waiting for the White Sox to make The Big Move. Naturally, when the White Sox make a small move, the inclination is to frame it as a precursor to something more thrilling.

The Sox made such an exercise easy when they traded for Yonder Alonso on Friday night. Alonso is Manny Machado’s brother-in-law, and everybody connected those dots:

And that left Rick Hahn attempting to shoot it down today on a conference call with reporters:

“Fundamentally this is a baseball deal,” Hahn said. “We feel this makes us better. We like how Yonder fits in between the lines and in the clubhouse and helps further what we’re trying to accomplish in 2019 and beyond. The potential ancillary benefits to it in terms of his relationships with others really can’t be part of pulling the trigger in making the decision to acquire a big league player, especially a veteran one with this type of contract commitment.”

Rather, Hahn said the White Sox pursued Alonso last winter, and that Jose Abreu is happy to share first base duties with a friend.

I’m guessing Hahn is being forthright here, and that the White Sox did acquire Alonso for baseball reasons, both on the field and in the clubhouse. (Again, I cannot wait for leadership to take a back burner when it comes to additions. Can’t. Wait.)

However, there are a couple problems when trying to parse these quotes.

Let’s pretend the White Sox actually did acquire Alonso for the primary purpose of adding an unique angle to the pursuit of Manny Machado. It’d come off as exceptionally low-rent to say, “Other teams may be closer to contending and offer equal money for better chances, but his wife won’t have to watch two teams!”

But even if you can set that aside and truly make it all about baseball, the White Sox went out of their way to cordon off the DH position to an unremarkable bat who can only play first base, and for a non-negligible $9 million commitment. If that doesn’t remind you of Adam LaRoche, it’s probably because it reminds you of Adam Dunn.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve learned to cringe when the White Sox pick up somebody who had more homers than doubles the year before. It’s one thing when Dunn did it, because he averaged 40 homers from 2004-10. It’s less impressive when the homer total starts with a “2.” That caught my eye when the Sox signed LaRoche, and Alonso’s in the same situation:

  • LaRoche, 2014: 26 homers, 19 doubles over 586 PA
  • Alonso, 2018: 23 homers, 19 doubles over 574 PA

Basically, it seems unsound to save the DH job for a guy who has never topped 50 extra-base hits in a season, especially when it helps out a division rival’s payroll in the process.

Assuming the White Sox indeed have no desire to trade Abreu, then it basically forces Daniel Palka to try to make an outfielder of himself. Alonso is the better hitter of the two, but I doubt he’s $9-million-plus-watching-Palka-play-outfield-to-get-some-value-out-of-him better.

If the White Sox somehow land Machado or Bryce Harper, then perhaps you can point to this trade, the James McCann signing and the trades for Ivan Nova and Alex Colome as the White Sox giving their roster more credible names during negotiations. It’s “all’s well that ends well” with any scenario that results in the Sox acquiring a legit star.

But after weeks of the White Sox saying all the right things and generating all the right reports, here’s Buster Olney to throw some cold water on the hot stove:

The White Sox really like Harper as a player. They also really like Machado, a player they attempted to trade for before the 2018 season in the hope that a year with the team would help convince him to re-sign with them.

But a well-placed source says the franchise’s interest does not go so far that the team would sign either player to a record-setting contract, which is probably what will be required to land them. The interest of the White Sox is more measured and modest than frenzied, and within more conventional financial bounds.

This is a single report that runs counter to the rest of the narrative to date, which means it could be the start of the White Sox trying to establish upper bounds to their pursuit. A standard negotiation probably starts with an offer below Giancarlo Stanton’s record $325 million sum, and maybe that’s what this is.

But it harshes a mellow just the same. The Luis Robert pursuit — the closest thing to a predecessor when it comes to the White Sox breaking new financial ground — didn’t feature this kind of brake-pumping. I wouldn’t expect the timelines to match up perfectly, but there was some comfort in the White Sox taking the straightest possible lines to the signing, and now the paths have diverged.

It also generates a very natural question that’s very difficult to answer: What can the White Sox offer if they’re not offering the most money?

I’ll hang up and wait for your answer.

All in all, this has been a discouraging 24 hours for the offseason. Heading into Friday, the White Sox payroll increased nearly $17 million on Ivan Nova and Alex Colome. Both players aren’t thrilling, but at least they’re clear upgrades to their respective units at modest acquisition costs.

Now they’ve spent more than $10 million on guys who bring low ceilings to spots that could’ve been used for more dramatic upgrades or roster flexibility, and now everybody’s style is starting to cramp.

I wouldn’t expect the White Sox to pull off a transformational winter without the emotional wringer getting involved, so I’m trying to check for overreactions. Alonso could simply be the cost of doing business with bigger fish.

That said, if the White Sox pull up short on the major targets while acquiring a first baseman for a DH and a backup catcher who is subpar at most things and using “leadership” to paper over the deficiencies, then you’re left with the same front office making the exact same decisions and hoping this young, cost-controlled core is better at heavy lifting.

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Patrick Nolan
Editor

Very good analysis.

jose robcada
Member

hahn also made a comment stating how he thought palka could be an everyday outfielder as hes trying to lose weight after alonso/abreu basically takes up his dh spot, obviously a ploy to keep jimenez down for 3 weeks

Trooper Galactus
Member

Not really, left field is full of less savory options than even Palka in right.

Sox-Me-in-St.Louis
Member

This may just be me, but I’m having trouble understanding why people want Palka to have a guaranteed spot on the 25 man? Is it because he’s fan friendly and hits some impressive dingers, cause he doesn’t bring anything else to the table. Idk, I guess my thinking is Abreu should be the primary DH and this move allows for it if they want, but it’s a pretty disappointing move on it’s face. Not a fan of the McCann signing either and agree it’s been a disappointing 24 hours, just don’t understand the concern regarding Palka being blocked as a result. He’s got options and is a AAAA player.

denbum
Member

Agree w/ Meet StL, on Abreu being the primary DH – but very disappointed as I view Y. Alonso as LaRoche-ish. Out-of-the-box, I want Madrigal at 2B, Moncada stays on the right side at 1B, and Abreu to DH. IMO, better at all 3 spots. Alonso and McCann are underwhelming and disappointing (to me).

Sox-Me-in-St.Louis
Member

Yeah, I’ll fully admit to the fact I needed to take a closer look at what Alonso is bringing to the table. It’s not a great move, and I fully see why people are disappointed with it. Just don’t feel Palka losing AB’s is a top reason to be disappointed with the move.

Trooper Galactus
Member

Personally, it’s not that Palka losing ABs is a huge issue for me so much as he’s losing them to a guy like Yonder Alonso. Palka has at least the hope of untapped upside that can maybe be unlocked with more reps, whereas Alonso just sorta is what he is, and what he is isn’t particularly good.

lil jimmy
Member

Two parts to winning. Score runs, stop the other team from scoring. I believe Alonso is an above average defender. Also an above average OBP.

karkovice squad
Member

I’d call Alonso inconsistent on both counts.

Trooper Galactus
Member

He’s consistently better than 1 bWAR but less than 2 bWAR. He’s the epitome of a mediocre acquisition.

karkovice squad
Member

Jimmy cited 2 particular areas, OBP and defense, both of which have been highly variable.

But if we’re not going to stick to the components Jimmy pointed out, let’s not limit ourselves to bWAR. BP puts his floor closer to replacement level with a similar ceiling to B-Ref. Fangraphs says he’s had both a higher peak and lower floor. 2 out of 3 say inconsistent, not merely mediocre.

Trooper Galactus
Member

All three seem to agree he’s average at his absolute peak, which seems pretty mediocre to me.

karkovice squad
Member

Not consistently mediocre. Sometimes actually bad.

Trooper Galactus
Member

I guess I reserve the term “bad” for actually sub-replacement level. The last decade of WSB has probably skewed my standard for assigning it.

karkovice squad
Member

A team of replacement level players projects to win 48 games. That’s terrible.

Trooper Galactus
Member

Just saying we’ve seen way too many guys fail to achieve even replacement level the last few years. Again, the White Sox have warped my definition of “bad” downwards to a significant degree. I mean, we can largely agree that Gordon Beckham was “bad”, but he was far from the biggest problem on the team while he was here (except in the sense that the front office continued to project a breakout from him that never came) and he stayed above replacement level.

melidoperez
Member

It’s hard not to like the guy, but I am in total agreement, and it’s a hell of a commentary on the role expectations play in fan behavior.

Eagle Bones
Member

I have no problem trying to improve on palka. The issue is (1) the lack of upside on a guy like alonso and (2) there are other spots on the roster that are completely lacking an internal option. Palka at least looked like he could be useful. If they add two more OFs and a SP, I may change my tune a bit, but again, as with the McCann deal, this seems more like a February move (after they’ve exhausted other options).

ParisSox
Member

Truth to the last paragraph.  I’ve given Hahn as much rope as anyone not named Reinsdorf. But yeah, if they DON’T catch a big fish or two then the last two moves are just bad judgement and I’m ready to put on my yellow jersey and demand a regime change.  

karkovice squad
Member

Who do the Russian bots back in that situation?

ParisSox
Member

They back who I tell them to back.  

Red Line Trane
Member

The reason that I particularly hate this move is that it only pays off as a recruitment tactic for Machado. If it works, fine… it’s a $9M perk for Manny. I can live with that.

But Bryce Harper doesn’t care about this (if anything, he sees a team that’s trying to sell him on the future actively acquire a player that doesn’t make them better). And the White Sox are so bad that Harper or Machado alone isn’t going to drag them out of the drecks. They need to be maximizing talent across the board, and this isn’t the way to do it.

And God help us all if they whiff on both of them…

PopeDonnPall
Member

I had a similar thought. What does this say to Bryce Harper? Nova, McCann, Alonso… The first word that comes to mind in all this is “mired.” And I know the cost of Call is relatively low but is this a good use of our prospect depth. Seems it’s better spent using a bigger name from our prospect depth on a bigger deal involving someone that fits in with the future. The above names, the guys who acquired for international money, the guys we got for the Jennings and Swarzaks and Sorias of the world… they all seem just kinda Blah. Mired.

Trooper Galactus
Member

Call and $9 million. A few years ago the organization felt hamstrung by $13 million to Laroche, so unless there’s a major sea change in the offing, Alonso isn’t some sort of throw-away acquisition.

Marty34
Member

I think if the Sox sign Harper and Machado they deal for a pitcher. Maybe Stroman or Sanchez from the Jays.

It all comes back to payroll doesn’t it? The Sox are operating like they are going to get a nice pop in TV revenue. Conservatively speaking their 2020 revenue could project to $300M whether they sign Harper and Machado, one or neither.

I’ve found a reliable way to estimate Sox payroll limit to be 58% of Forbes reported revenue. 58% of $300M would be $175M. That’s enough to sign Harper and Machado and put a contending tean around them.

Trooper Galactus
Member

But the problem is, will Renisdorf be thinking along those lines, or just thinking, “Hey, instead of spending $175 million, I can just spend $100 million and pocket that other $75 million!”

karkovice squad
Member

Out of curiousity, why is Robert the most similar groundbreaking predecessor rather than the failed pursuits of A-Rod and Tanaka?

NateDPT12
Member

I’m inclined to view Olney’s report as negotiating through the media. You don’t want Boras/Lozano thinking you’ll pay anything for them because then you’ll be taken for a ride. Also, it runs counter to everything else we’ve heard thus far. I can’t imagine the front office is stupid enough to think they can get either of them without a record contract. It makes no sense to clear all that payroll for this offseason and then to lowball two generational free agents.

Not the mention the PR shitstorm that would ensue if they miss out on Harper/ Machado because of a lowball offer. I can’t think of anything that would more discourage fans from believing this rebuild will be successful than to pull up in pursuing those two players.  It would extend to next offseason too because nobody will believe they’re willing to sign Arenado/ Rendon etc. if they weren’t willing to pay up for Harper/ Machado.

yoyo
Member

Arenado is one of my favorite “non Sox” players in baseball but going after him would be the equal of the bad contracts given to players over 30 years old. At least with Machado/Harper you get to enjoy more than 2-3 years of their prime.

PopeDonnPall
Member

James Fegan
‏Verified account @JRFegan
5m5 minutes ago

Eloy Jiménez is dealing with a quad strain and is day-to-day as far as returning to action in winter ball.

Eloy and Luis are delicate fellas.

Trooper Galactus
Member

“Alonso is the better hitter of the two, but I doubt he’s $9-million-plus-watching-Palka-play-outfield-to-get-some-value-out-of-him better.”

Best summation of this trade I’ve seen.

asinwreck
Member

It’s delightful that the same judges of major-league talent who brought us Jeff Keppinger, Alex Avila, and Adam LaRoche remain able to populate the roster with mediocrities after bidding Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and Adam Eaton goodbye in the name of rebuilding.

Jabari Parker is young. I hear he is available.

lil jimmy
Member

I am going to assume there is more to be done. By the look of things, much more. When they say they are done, then I am happy to critique. This has to be more than throwing shit against the wall….. Right?

Trooper Galactus
Member

I’d be less concerned had they not established a pretty lengthy record to date of throwing shit against the wall.

GoGoSoxFan
Member

It’s beginning to look like Hahn is proceeding with plan “B”, in case he can’t sign Harper/Machado/Grandal: sign a bunch of crap placeholders and spend another year waiting for prospects to develope.

melidoperez
Member

I think the middle of a rebuild can be a confusing place for a fan, especially when the org for 20 years has only given you “we’re trying to win it all” or “we are going to completely suck” as options.

I know what I don’t want, which is:
-Any fringe pickup blocking an actual prospect from playing
-Any win-now moves made at the expense of the farm.
-Any move (for a non elite) that hurts financial flexibility in the future

The Nova/Alonso/Colome moves don’t break any of those. They are veteran alternatives to the idea of handing those positions to AAAA players. They are not long or expensive obligations. If they make 3-4 more of these types of moves, and it results in them having a watchable product while we patiently wait for the Roberts and Kopechs of the world to be on the team, that is fine. I am hoping to see a decent jump in wins, so the mark can be moved from why would you join a 63 win team to a team that wins in the mid 70s.

This year’s FA class was circled for obvious reasons, but there will be opportunity for impact guys next year as well with Arenado, Bogaerts, Gerrit Cole, Rendon, and a handful of other guys. At the same time, when half the league is rebuilding/tanking, I find a lot of the “you won’t be good so be as bad as possible” unappealing. Might not even be possible from the Sox division.

As Cirensica
Member

“you won’t be good so be as bad as possible”

Apparently Hahn’s only gear.

Trooper Galactus
Member

I think the Alonso pickup could be argued to violate your first two rules, even if only a little bit.

melidoperez
Member

The White Sox having a legit 1B prospect ready to play and trading the organizations 8th highest ranked outfielder who will be rule 5 unprotected next year impacts our farm system would both be very shitty arguments to make.

Trooper Galactus
Member

Call might have been unexceptional, but he was a decent enough depth piece and a bit more advanced in the system than most of the bigger names. And I was more referring to him blocking Palka from getting reps at DH. Palka might not be a prospect per se, but he’s younger, cost-controlled, and, despite the extremes in his profile, projects to be as valuable a hitter with reason to dream on more.

yolmers gatorade
Member

I think the Sox fundamentally have a hard time thinking it is good to lose 100 games two seasons in a row. They want to have a puncher’s chance at Cleveland if everything breaks exactly in their favor regardless of the Machado Harper stuff. But they don’t want to sacrifice any prospect depth to get the outside shot, which is smart. And they don’t want to sacrifice payroll flexibility either, which is also smart. So you get a move like this. I’d start looking a third basemen on one year deal, because I bet that’s who they target next.

ndsoxfan
Member

It’s really hard for me to be upset at this move.  The Sox know they are fighting an uphill battle to sign a star so here they are spending 9M to help their chances.  Hard to bitch about not spending money when they do that.  Also, they are replacing a couple of guys who probably aren’t actual major league players with a guy who is.  Abreu was hurt a decent amount and maybe this helps him stay healthier and more effective.  The only thing I’m slightly sad about is losing Call.  Probably no biggie but he was a personal favorite of mine.

MrStealYoBase
Member

I think that all these moves so far aren’t bad in as far as they haven’t committed to anything beyond 2020. A move that supplants a AAAA guy with an average, albeit unexciting, player is a step in the right direction. It’s important for prospects to have someone to compete with and against and be a part of a club that has the potential to win games. Hopefully this puts less pressure on guys like Anderson, Moncada, Lopez, Giolito, and Jimenez to carry the team by themselves.
But then there’s the question with what this says about the FO and their evaluation of players. On one hand you have them saying that Palka is only really a LH power bench bat, which is what he is, so that’s good. But they are also saying that Collins and Zavala will be able to hold down catcher defensively, which does not seem to be true, so that’s bad. They see value pitchers who don’t walk guys, which is good. But they also continue to put value in intangible veteran “leadership” over skill, which is bad.
Maybe I should just hold my breath until March, hopefully it doesn’t kill me.

35Shields
Member

This move is just asinine.

If you want Manny, than take the $9-17m that you’ll be giving to Alonso to be a high-priced Daniel Palka and give it to Manny. Best part is if Manny’s not interested, you could give that money to Harper.

They:
1. Traded a fringe prospect
2. To help unload a division rivals payroll
3. So they can overpay a 1B/DH power bat
4. In the hopes that one free agent, who they’re not going to offer a record contract to, cares that he’s related to that guy

Smclean09
Member

If he helps sign machado. Win

He doesnt help you sign Machado, but his walk rate bounces back, and Grate allows him to slug a bit more, he is traded for more than Call or you have an option for 2020. Win

He doesnt bounce back. You lost 300 ABs for Palka. Loss?? Not so sure.

Not sure the hate over this trade at all.

Trooper Galactus
Member

Because it’s completely superfluous and even in the best case scenario is unlikely to do much of anything for the team’s fortunes. It’s basically a $9 million enticement for Machado, and after that it’s a sunk cost.

Smclean09
Member

They were not going to be able to sign a DH for 1 year with a team option for a second for less than 20 million. It literally does no harm if he doesnt bounce back. The outfield depth and lack of payroll makes this move fine, unspectacular for sure, but fine.

I’d love them to take on payroll to get a CF that can be here for a year or two as well. Spend the FA money that is going to actually effect the window (3-4 year contracts that will coincide with arb raises for the young core) at catcher/3B where there isnt a impact player on the rise.

ImmortalTimeTravelMan
Member

They couldn’t sign Moose to those exact terms? I can’t remember the last time I saw him mentioned in any off season rumors.

Smclean09
Member

I dont think moose is very good and obviously doesn’t sleep with the right player’s relatives

Trooper Galactus
Member

Moose is certainly better than Alonso, and can actually cover a position of need.

Smclean09
Member

If they’re actually contending this year then DH was as much of a need as catcher or 3B.

Palka is less valuable than Castillo or Yolmer. His fingers may be entertaining but he doesnt bring a whole lot of anything else to the table.

Trooper Galactus
Member

Palka at DH, assuming he produces similarly or even improves modestly, is about as valuable as Alonso is likely to be at DH. If it was a position of need, Alonso is not making them appreciably better at it. Even if Alonso proves to be at least a capable defender at 1B, I don’t know that I’d take a Yonder/Abreu 1B/DH platoon any sooner than a Palka/Abreu one. Just my opinion; this is a lot of money for what, in my eyes, is zero tangible improvement to the team. So if it doesn’t get Machado signed, it’s a sunk cost.

ImmortalTimeTravelMan
Member

Except not every player on a baseball team can play 3B or catcher. Any player who knows how to bat can play DH and they already had players on the team who could play that position and nothing else.

No one is arguing that Palka is less valuable than Sanchez or Castillo because they play positions that he can’t. I’m arguing that Alonso wasn’t a big enough upgrade over Palka to take his job, take on money, help out a division rival, and not sign a position that was actually of need.

Trooper Galactus
Member

They didn’t NEED to sign a 1-year DH, much less trade for a mediocre one at $9 million.

Smclean09
Member

This deal fall directly under the Nova trade. Makes a tiny bit of sense and has some upside but otherwise isnt going to get in the way of making a splash next offseason or development of any who is important.

I think there is a frustration hangover from the McCann signing and the last 10 years.

Trooper Galactus
Member

They needed a guy like Nova. They didn’t need a guy like Alonso. Those reps could easily have been covered by Palka much more cost effectively.

Smclean09
Member

His salary isnt going to keep them from signing anyone of note this offseason. They won’t fill every position for their next championship run this year for that matter.

He is better than Palka, may have a tie with Machado, and can potentially be flipped if it’s simply a rebuild year in the end.

I guess I’ll have to agree to disagree that it’s worth all the handwringing over.

Trooper Galactus
Member

Yeah, we’re not gonna find common ground here. I don’t foresee a sub-average first baseman making $9 million having any trade value, and I don’t really know that he’s any better than Palka except for maybe you can trust him to play at least one position competently.

ndsoxfan
Member

You don’t know what a sunk cost is.  Troy Tulowitzki is a sunk cost for the Blue Jays.  Yonder Alonso on the White Sox is not. He was worth 1.6 WAR last year and is paid as such.  He was obviously acquired to help sign Machado while also being better than anything we had.

Trooper Galactus
Member

A 1.6 WAR first baseman would not get $9 million on the open market, or anywhere near it. That, to me, is a sunk cost. Sorry, but the valuation of a win at $8 million or whatever is a bit ludicrous to me when it comes to valuing individual player production.

rugbysox
Member

Fail to sign Harper or Machado, this is a waste and only bettered a rival to get to 75 wins. Land one of them and we have a formidable line up against RHP. Given that the premier starters in the division are all RH, that angle may have been lost over the dour sox belief that opening day is tomorrow. 

ImmortalTimeTravelMan
Member

If we wanted an underachieving lefthanded bat why the hell didn’t we sign Moose? He could at least play 3rd base and not take AB’s away from Palka at DH.

And I don’t like a move that may have prevented a guy like Kluber getting traded out of the AL: he had 20 wins last year and 4 of them came from us in games where we were absolutely spanked. I don’t want to help Cleveland out of any jams, especially for a guy like of Alonso.

melidoperez
Member

Daniel Palka hitting moonshots was a pleasant distraction during a season the Sox were losing on purpose. Seems like a wonderful guy and somebody you’d love to have a beer with. That being said, the “don’t block Palka” stuff is sort of confusing.

-waiver claim who is 27, not some young guy
-is a liability with the glove so bat has to carry value
-is a platoon bat that is completely overmatched by LHP (60wRC and 40+K%)
-even against RHP, still sported sub .300 OBP
-possibly most damning if the concern is he is a AAAA player is nearly all of his output came against the absolute worst pitching staffs. Most players obviously put up better numbers vs bad competition obviously, but his splits are insane. Absolutely murdered the Royals (1.266 ops in 45 PAs) and did the same to Orioles, Reds, and Tigers. How did he do against teams that were trotting out pitching staffs that weren’t trying to lose on purpose?

213 PA’s vs winning teams
162/221/354
87 strikeouts/13 walks

People are offended by the thought of that player losing at bats to a solid if unspectacular hitter (whose numbers have been much better after totally changing approach two years ago)?

jorgefabregas
Member

Maybe they’re trying to corner the market on Y-name players. Missed opportunity trading that rookie ball fella. Yasmani next!

GoGoSoxFan
Member

I bet it’s Yasiel.

Trooper Galactus
Member

Clearly Hahn is looking at Orioles reliever Jimmy Yacabonis to bolster the pen.

StockroomSnail
Member

Ugh, I was hoping I was being too reflexively dour.

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