Yonder Alonso Rumors

Blocked Prospects: Yonder Alonso

The Reds have successful drafted and developed their first baseman of the future, and it's not 2008 first round pick Yonder Alonso. Joey Votto, a second round pick back in 2002, has emerged as one of the game's best young hitters, posting the fourth highest OPS (.981) in baseball last year. Tim mentioned Votto as a young player with a chance to receive a contract extension, and went so far as to find some comparables.

Baseball America ranked Alonso the 45th best prospect in the game, while ESPN's Keith Law had him 76th. Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein left him off his Top 101 Prospects List entirely. In their 2010 Handbook, Baseball America rated Alonso the team's second best prospect (though that was before the Aroldis Chapman signing) and wrote that he is "the purest hitter in the system and has above-average power." Though he missed a big chunk of the 2009 season with a hamate injury, Alonso hit .292/.374/.464 across three levels.

As the 7th overall pick in 2008, Alonso received a Major League contract that put him on the 40-man roster immediately and will pay him $4.55MM through 2012. The clock is ticking on Alonso's three option years, which will expire after the 2011 season, however it's worth noting that he'll qualify for the rare fourth option because his original three will be used before his fifth pro season. Regardless, Cincinnati is in a bit of a pickle because they have a highly touted first base prospect ready to start the season in Double-A, and a 26-year-old franchise player at the same position.

Rumors swirled last year that the Reds would try Alonso behind the plate, but he doesn't have the body for it and it's a position that takes quite some time to learn. MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reports that Alonso will play left field this year, which is exactly what the Padres did with Kyle Blanks when he approached the big leagues blocked by Adrian Gonzalez. If the experiment in left doesn't go as planned, Alonso will be a prime piece of trade bait.

When it comes to comparable prospects being traded, the first name that comes to mind is Matt LaPorta. The Brewers selected him in the first round despite having Prince Fielder in the big leagues, but used him to headline a package for CC Sabathia, who helped them get to the playoffs. If the Reds contend this year or next, Alonso could be the guy to get them the piece needed to put them over the top. For now, he'll try out left field and continue to develop at Double-A.

Discussion: Yonder Alonso

Cincinnati has a long tradition of National League baseball, but the Yonder Alonso situation must make Reds fans wish for the designated hitter rule.  Reds manager Dusty Baker and GM Walt Jocketty both spoke about Alonso's future at the team's spring camp in Arizona today, and MLB.com's Mark Sheldon sums up the situation within a larger piece about Alonso's development.

The basic problem is that Alonso, the top prospect in Cincinnati's system, is blocked at his natural first base position by the Reds' best player, Joey Votto.  As John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer points out, Alonso will be out of options after the 2011 season since he signed a major league contract for five years and worth $4.55MM after being taken seventh overall in the 2008 June Amateur Draft.

At one point it seemed as if Votto, who has some experience playing in left, would move back to the outfield when Alonso was ready for the majors.  But as Fay notes, Votto "doesn’t want to move and he’s worked hard at first base."  Fangraphs lists Votto as having an above-average 3.8 UZR/150 rating at first base, though it's taken from a sample size of just 291 games.

As Sheldon and Fay both report, Alonso has been worked out this spring as a corner outfielder and at third base, where he would presumably serve as the heir apparent to Scott Rolen if all things worked out perfectly for the Reds.  There has even been some talk of trying out Alonso at catcher.

Provided that Alonso doesn't sink to Incaviglia-esque depths in left or right field, he should be able to handle life away from first.  But if the position switch doesn't take or, even worse, affects Alonso's bat, then the Reds have a real issue on their hands.  Alonso's name popped up in the Rolen trade talks with Toronto last summer, and there would be no shortage of teams that would be interested in acquiring the young slugger if he were put on the market. 

The other alternative, albeit the more unlikely one, is that Votto would be traded.  Votto is eligible for arbitration after 2010 and is under team control through 2013; combine that with his proven major league production and the Reds could net a gold mine of players and prospects in a deal.  But, Votto's big league track record is exactly the reason why it's far more probable that Cincinnati would hold onto him and move Alonso if it came to a choice between the two.

Odds & Ends: Indians, Mets, Verlander

As Tommy John's long-lost brother Elton once said, Saturday night's alright for fighting…and also for posting news links.

  • The Tribe's quiet offseason is recapped by Paul Hoynes of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, who also looks at how busy the other AL Central teams have been in comparison.
  • MLB.com's Marty Noble outlines how he would have handled the Mets' offseason if he had been the GM, both if the team's goal was to contend or to rebuild (Noble's preference).
  • Steve Kornacki of MLive.com thinks Justin Verlander's reported five-year, $75MM offer from the Tigers "is too sweet a contract for Verlander to pass on," even without the sixth year that the pitcher wants.
  • Mark Sheldon of MLB.com passes along some tidbits from Dusty Baker on the Reds Winter Caravan.  Baker said that reliever Mike Lincoln (who last started a major league game in 2000) was a contender for the No. 5 spot in the Reds' rotation, and that the club had considered moving top prospect Yonder Alonso to catcher.  John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer sums these ideas up as candidates for the "sometimes-managers-say-the-darnedest-things file."
  • MLB.com's Bryan Hoch believes the Yankees have finished their roster tinkering before spring training, and talks to Yankees manager Joe Girardi about New York's offseason moves.
  • Chuck Greenberg, the incoming general managing partner of the Texas Rangers, is profiled by Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News. 
  • MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch was all over the Q&A sessions with Pirates management during the team's PirateFest event.  Here is her latest transcript of a similar sessions with various Pittsburgh players.
  • Jon Heyman of SI.com tweets his guesses about the destinations of some of the free agent infielders left on the market.  He sees Orlando Hudson in Washington, Orlando Cabrera in Cincinnati and Felipe Lopez in St. Louis.
  • Count the White Sox out of the running for Johnny Damon or Hank Blalock, says Scott Merkin of MLB.com, since both are too costly for the limited space left in the team's budget.  When asked about the possibility of Damon in Chicago, Sox GM Kenny Williams rhetorically asked, "Who is his agent?"

Reds Notes: Taveras, Owings, Gomes

MLB.com's Mark Sheldon cleaned out his inbox and answered a few questions from Reds fans today.  Here are some of the more pertinent details…

  • The team would like to move Willy Taveras if they could, but there are very few takers for a player who posted a .240/.275/.285 line in 2009 and is due to make $4MM next season.  Given his limited abilities and how Shelton feels that Taveras wouldn't be happy on the bench, the Reds have to consider cutting their losses with Taveras and releasing him.
  • Micah Owings will likely not be used as trade bait, given that he is expected to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation and is also valuable out of the bullpen or as a pinch-hitter.
  • Sheldon thinks that between Jonny Gomes and Laynce Nix, Gomes has "the better chance" of being tendered a contract.
  • If neither man is brought back, Cincinnati will turn to a variety of in-house options for the left field job, including Wladimir Balentien, Chris Dickerson or prospects Juan Francisco, Chris Heisey and Todd Frazier.
  • Sheldon believes Joey Votto "has earned the right" to remain as Cincinnati's everyday first baseman, and the Reds would only consider moving their young slugger to left field if prospect Yonder Alonso proved he was ready for the major leagues.
  • No surprise here, but Shelton confirms that the Reds don't have the payroll to go after major free agents like Matt Holliday or Jason Bay.

Reds To Cut Payroll, Big Names Could Be Dealt

Add the Reds to the list of teams that are slashing, rather than spending, this off-season.  Fanhouse's Ed Price and Jeff Fletcher are reporting that Cincinnati is looking to cut their payroll from $71MM in 2009 to between the $65-$70MM range next season.  While it may not sound like much of a reduction, Cot's Baseball Contracts lists the Reds as owing just under $66MM to just ten players for next season, leaving little room to fill out the rest of the roster.

Lagging attendance figures are to blame for the Reds' financial cutbacks.  Price and Fletcher noted that attendance at the Great American Ballpark dropped by more than 15 percent from 2008 to 2009.  General manager Walt Jocketty was quoted in the piece as saying, "We're going to probably have less to spend this year than we have in the past…It just depends on how [ticket] sales go this offseason."

If Cincinnati does make a deal, the likeliest candidates to be moved are second baseman Brandon Phillips (owed just under $7MM in 2010), and pitchers Aaron Harang ($12.5MM) and Bronson Arroyo ($12.25MM).  Phillips, with his .452 slugging percentage over the last four seasons, is the most attractive candidate to other clubs given his power from the second base position and reasonable contract.  Harang and Arroyo are both coming off decent years themselves, but Price and Fletcher speculate that their bigger contract numbers would require the Reds to absorb a chunk of their salaries if traded.

One star player who looks to be staying in Cincinnati is closer Francisco Cordero, who Price and Fletcher say the club "would prefer to keep" despite the $25MM he's owed through 2011.  A very intriguing trade chip could be young slugger Joey Votto, if the Reds wanted to make room for star prospect Yonder Alonso at first base.  Another team could be convinced to take on a bad contract if it meant getting Votto, who isn't eligible for free agency until after the 2013 season.

Reds Assistant GM On Trades, Minors, Draft

Bob Miller, the Assistant GM for the Reds, chatted with fans this afternoon on MLB.com. Here are some of the highlights:

  • This year the Reds would consider dealing for a right-handed power bat, but they'll "play it by ear and see if the deal will help" the team. 
  • Of the trades he's been a part of, Miller's proudest of dealing Karim Garcia for Luis Gonzalez with the D'Backs. 
  • He metioned the Brandon Phillips and Bronson Arroyo deals as the best ones the Reds have made recently.
  • The deal Miller's least proud of? Trading six players for Richie Sexson.
  • Miller believes the Reds have a strong minor league system because of its depth. He specifically mentioned Yonder Alonso, who's hitting well lately.
  • Miller compared the draft to "the biggest board game you can possibly imagine" in terms of the strategy it demands. 

Yonder Alonso Contract Details

Dayton Daily News reporter Hal McCoy checks in with some great details about the contract signed by Reds’ first round draft choice Yonder Alonso, which is reportedly worth a little more than $4.55 million, with incentives:

  • "For his last three college semesters, the Reds will contribute $78,000 – that’s $60,000 in tuition and $18,000 in books and board."
  • "A trip for his immediate family will be paid for by the Reds for his first major-league game."
  • Alonso "gets $25,000 if he is Rookie of the Year, $100 if he is MVP and $100,000 if he is MVP of the World Series (for what team?)."

I assume McCoy made a mistake and that Alonso gets $100K if he is MVP, because $100 doesn’t seem like much of an incentive.

Coley Ward writes for Umpbump.com. You can reach him here.

Reds Sign Yonder Alonso, Yorman Rodriguez

11:30pm: The Reds also inked Venezuelan outfielder Yorman Rodriguez, according to a press release.

11:09pm: MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan says Alonso signed for $4.5MM.  John Manuel adds details: "$2MM bonus, $4.55MM guarantee" on a Major League deal.

10:40pm: Baseball America’s Jim Callis says the Reds have signed Alonso, most likely to a big league deal.  Terms are not yet known.

6:09pm: According to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Reds GM Walt Jocketty has made his final offer to first-round pick Yonder Alonso.  Jocketty says Alonso backed down slightly for the first time today, so there is hope.

Draft Pick Signing Update: Posey, Matusz, Alonso

10:51am: Baggarly has the latest on Posey.  He says it’s a "spitting contest" between Scott Boras and Posey’s agency to have the highest-paid draft pick.

7:46am: The latest links involved unsigned first-round draft picks.

Draft Roundup: Dykstra, Smoak, Alonso

Here’s a collection of links involving unsigned first rounders.