Two days before Christmas, the Cleveland Indians announced that their first base vacancy has been filled. The 30-year-old Cuban native, Yonder Alonso, officially signed a two year deal with the Indians.
According to www.baseball-reference.com, the seventh overall pick in the 2008 draft will make $7 million in 2018 and $8 million in 2019. In 2020, Alonso will automatically make $9 million if he has either 550 plate appearances in 2019 or 1,100 plate appearances combined over the next two seasons. Otherwise, the tribe can still choose to pick up his $9 million option in 2020 or pay him $1 million to be a free agent.
Alonso has a career .994 fielding percentage at first base over 709 career major league games.
He figures to potentially bat fifth in the lineup (after Edwin Encarnacion) and if he does, that would bode well for him and Cleveland as he hit .320 in 200 plate appearances in 2017 when batting fifth. He also hit .308 last year with men on base and .289 when his team trailed.
Alonso hit .266 in Oakland and .265 after he was traded to Seattle for Boog Powell on August 6, 2017.
Alonso’s major change in 2017 was his power surge. Alonso had a great first half of 2017, as his 20 first-half home runs garnered him his first all-star game selection of his career. Prior to 2017, Alonso’s highest HR total in a season was nine in 2012. Alonso ended 2017 with 28 HR which was more than triple his previous best. This surge in power comes from a change in his swing which has caused an increase in his fly ball rate. Oakland and Seattle have two of the larger ballparks in MLB so Cleveland is counting on the idea that Progressive field’s more balanced field plays to Alonso’s strengths.
This signing clearly puts a screeching halt on the idea that either Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall or Jason Kipnis will play first base for the next two or three seasons. It also seems to lock Brantley in left field and Chisenhall in right field. Kipnis doesn’t appear to have a position on the team right now unless he goes back to second base and Jose Ramirez returns to third base. The Indians though figure to have five left-handed hitters, two switch hitters, and two right-handed hitters as their starting nine.