White Sox acquire first baseman Yonder Alonso
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In a short-term move with potential implications for a bigger long-term endeavor, the White Sox acquired first baseman Yonder Alonso from the Cleveland Indians on Friday.
The Sox are expected to give up 25-year-old minor-league outfielder Alex Call in the trade, which will be announced Saturday. It’s an intriguing acquisition because Alonso is the brother-in-law of free agent Manny Machado, whom the Sox are expected to meet with next week.
Also, the Sox already have a highly regarded first baseman in All-Star Jose Abreu, who has one year left on his contract. The trade could signal the Sox’ desire to move Abreu, who figures to earn around $16 million in arbitration, to another team, but the Sox have hinted strongly that they would prefer to keep Abreu.
Alonso, 31, will earn $8 million in 2019 and could be used in a first base/designated hitter rotation with Abreu.
The Sox also signed free-agent catcher James McCann to a one-year deal. General manager Rick Hahn had said acquiring a catcher was on his to-do list this offseason, but adding a first baseman such as Alonso came as a surprise, considering the Sox’ fondness for Abreu, 31, and his valued leadership.
Alonso, a left-handed bat who is better defensively than Abreu, will be under club control for 2020 with a $9 million option. After batting .250 with 23 home runs and 83 RBI in 145 games, his move to another club appeared imminent after the Indians traded for first baseman Carlos Santana and first baseman/outfielder Jake Bauers on Thursday.
Machado and Bryce Harper are the biggest free agents on the market, and the Sox are pursuing both. With only $33 million in pre-arbitration salary commitments for next season, they have the payroll flexibility to afford at least one of them.
Would they commit to $50 million or more for two players for one season, the likely combined cost for Harper and Machado for one season? Moving Abreu would be one way of creating even more space. Acquiring Alonso suggests they’re leaving no stone unturned in a bid for Machado.
In the end, they might end up with neither. So while going after Harper and Machado as long-term, nine-figure pursuits, the Sox continue to check off short-term needs for 2019. McCann’s one-year deal, for a reported $2.5 million, will be announced pending a physical, a source said. The Sox also traded for starting pitcher Ivan Nova on Tuesday and for reliever Alex Colome last week.
Call batted .248/.345/.415 with 12 homers and 58 RBI between Class A Winston-Salem and Class AA Birmingham in 2019. The Sox are stacked with outfield prospects at the A and AA levels, and Call, a 2016 third-round pick, is not ranked among the Sox’ 30 top prospects.