Yonder Alonso brings some sharp defensive skills to the A’s, and no shortage of enthusiasm about his new team too.
That much was apparent as Alonso talked with reporters on a media conference call following Wednesday’s five-player trade that sent him from San Diego to Oakland. By then Alonso had talked with Padres general manager A.J. Preller, A’s manager Bob Melvin and an old college teammate -- current A’s third baseman Danny Valencia.
After Preller broke the news of the trade to him, Alonso said that “all I could think about was going to the Bay Area and playing in the Coliseum with the white unis and white cleats. We played them last year and I was impressed with the players they have. They’re a bunch of players that just grind, and that’s what kind of player I am.”
Alonso’s strength undoubtedly is his slick glove, as his offensive numbers have not matched the hype that came with the Cincinnati Reds making him the No. 7 overall pick way back in the 2008 draft. He’s a .273 career hitter with an impressive career on-base percentage of .340, but he’s never hit more than nine homers in the majors or driven in more than 62 runs.
However, the A’s are high on the overall package he brings, offensively and defensively, and Alonso says his swing began regaining its form toward the end of this past season, after he was dealing with the effects of right wrist surgery late in 2014. He also missed the final few weeks of this season with a stress reaction in his back, but says he is healthy now.
One of the first people Alonso talked to after hearing about the trade was Valencia, a teammate when both anchored the middle of the lineup for the University of Miami. Alonso played first base and Valencia handled third. They also played travel ball together in high school.
“I talked to him earlier today, and he had nothing but great things to say about the team,” said Alonso, who turns 29 in April. “I just wish it was February so I could pack my bags and get ready for spring training.”
The A’s have shown interest in trading either Valencia or second baseman Brett Lawrie, but the way the roster is coming together, it’s easier to envision Lawrie being the one dealt. The A’s are looking to improve the clubhouse chemistry issues that were a factor last season. And though Valencia was viewed by some as perhaps being part of the problem in that area (the blame extends beyond one player), there’s no debate about how much Valencia’s bat helped the A’s toward the end of last season. And certainly it can’t hurt, from a chemistry standpoint, to bring in a player that Valencia has close ties with.
As for Alonso, he believes his offensive approach meshes perfectly with the A’s.
“It fits into what I do,” he said. “I’m a consistent hitter. I’m a tough out, I also want to see pitches. I don’t want to strike out. I think that’s the worst thing you can do as a hitter. Just be a tough out, put the ball in play, hit it to the gaps.”