The A’s landed a player they had been targeting Wednesday, but he came at a costly price.
They acquired first baseman Yonder Alonso from the San Diego Padres as part of a five-player trade, but to get him they had to part with reliever Drew Pomeranz, who appeared to be an instrumental piece of Oakland’s 2016 bullpen.
The A’s received another lefty reliever in the deal, Marc Rzepczynski, while also sending minor league reliever Jose Torres and a player to be named later to the Padres.
“Adding Marc certainly softens the blow of losing Drew in the bullpen,” A’s general manager David Forst said. “… Losing Drew was not something we set out to do, but San Diego made it clear they were interested in him from the beginning.”
Beefing up the bullpen remains a priority for the A’s, Forst said, as next week’s Winter Meetings approach in Nashville. They remain engaged in trade talks leading up to the meetings. In light of last week’s acquisition of infielder Jed Lowrie, it’s known the A’s are looking to deal either second baseman Brett Lawrie or third baseman Danny Valencia, and it stands to reason they’re looking for relief help in a return package, particularly with Pomeranz out of the equation.
Alonso, 28, was the seventh overall pick in the 2008 draft, a player Forst described as “one of, if not the best, defensive first basemen in the game.” But the left-handed batting Alonso, a .273 career hitter, has never cracked double-digit homers or driven in more than 62 runs in six previous major league seasons.
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He’s also been sidetracked by injuries and hasn’t appeared in more than 103 games since 2012. A stress reaction in his back sidelined him throughout September this past season, and he missed time with a fractured right hand in 2013 and forearm and wrist injuries in 2014.
But Forst talked up Alonso’s abilities at the plate along with his defensive prowess, adding that new bench coach Mark Kotsay – formerly the Padres’ hitting coach – gave Alonso a strong endorsement. He does boast an impressive .340 career on-base percentage.
“Obviously the knock on him is that he doesn’t profile with the power of a first baseman,” Forst said. “But he’s a very productive player, a very professional hitter. We’re excited to have him. … Certainly he’s a guy whose defense warrants him being out there a majority of the time.”
That brings up the question of where right-handed hitting first baseman Mark Canha, coming off a strong rookie season, will get most of his at-bats. Forst wouldn’t address whether he considers first base a straight platoon situation between Alonso and Canha, saying the roster is not finalized yet. Canha can also play left field, and as things currently stand, he figures to see time in left against right-handers, particularly if Coco Crisp continues to be plagued by injury problems.
Alonso’s addition led to what was already an expected move – veteran first baseman Ike Davis being non-tendered after an ineffective and injury-hampered 2015 season with the A’s. He becomes a free agent.
Pomeranz, who underwent minor shoulder surgery in October, showed promise after switching to a relief role part way through last season, posting a 2.61 ERA and a .205 opponents’ batting average in 44 appearances. He was viewed as a potential setup man in 2016, so it figures the A’s are in the market for a potential late-inning man to go with right-handers Liam Hendriks and Ryan Dull to set the table for closer Sean Doolittle.
“Thank you to all the fans and everyone in the Oakland organization for the last 2 years,” Pomeranz tweeted. “I have grown to love the Bay Area, which I now call home!”
Rzepczynski, 30, is a likely lefty-on-lefty specialist, taking the place of Fernando Abad, who cleared waivers after being designated for assignment and is expected to elect free agency. Rzepczynski struggled to a 5.66 ERA in 72 appearances last season split between Cleveland and San Diego, but he holds a 3.96 mark for his career.
Also Wednesday, Oakland resigned left-hander Felix Doubront on a one-year contract. Financial terms weren’t immediately available. He’s a fringe candidate to compete for a rotation spot.