The Rockies have signed first baseman Yonder Alonso to a minor league contract, Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports. Alonso unofficially announced the move himself earlier today on his Instagram page, and debuted tonight for the Rockies’ Triple-A affiliate.
Alonso was released by the White Sox last week, bringing to end a short and disappointing tenure for the 32-year-old in the Windy City. Alonso was acquired in a trade from the Indians last December, with Chicago somewhat surprisingly agreeing to take on all of the $8MM owed to the first baseman in 2019, plus the $9MM club option ($1MM buyout) on his services for 2020. At the time, much of the speculation focused on Alonso as a possible harbinger of a Manny Machado (Alonso’s brother-in-law) signing for the Sox, though Machado’s eventual decision to join the Padres got Alonso’s time with the Pale Hose off to something of an awkward start.
After a big 2017 season, Alonso was a slightly below-average offensive producer in 2018 (97 wRC+, 97 OPS+) and his bat went ice-cold in a White Sox uniform. The veteran hit just .178/.275/.301 with seven homers over 251 plate appearances, putting him on pace for what would be easily the worst full-season performance of his ten years in the majors. While his expected outcomes (xBA, xSLG, xwOBA) significantly outpaced his real-world numbers, his expected slash line of .235/.376/.311 was also far from impressive.
That 2017 performance was generated largely by Alonso retooling his swing to become an extreme fly-ball hitter, and though his ability to keep the ball in the air has diminished over the last two years, the Rockies are undoubtedly intrigued by what a revived Alonso could potentially do in the thin air at Coors Field. Since the White Sox are covering Alonso’s salary (minus the prorated MLB minimum if Alonso makes the big league roster), there’s no risk for Colorado in seeing if a change of scenery will get Alonso on track.
The Rockies already have another left-handed hitter in Daniel Murphy holding down the first base, so without a DH spot in the National League, Alonso would likely be limited to bench duty if he did crack the 25-man roster. It’s worth noting that the Rox had some mild interest in Edwin Encarnacion prior to the slugger’s trade to the Yankees last month, so Colorado gave at least some vague thought to shifting Murphy back to second base. Such move might have only been seriously considered to accommodate a player in the midst of a strong season like Encarnacion, however, rather than a struggling veteran like Alonso.