After losing Carlos Santana to Philadelphia in free agency, Cleveland agreed to a $16 million, two-year contract with first baseman Yonder Alonso, a person familiar with the negotiations told the Associated Press.
Alonso hit a career-high 28 homers last season and became a first-time All-Star. He batted .266 with 67 RBIs in stints with Oakland and Seattle. A left-handed hitter, Alonso has credited changing his swing with the up-tick in power numbers.
Santana left a sizeable void in Cleveland’s lineup after agreeing to a a $60 million, three-year contract with Philadelphia. Santana was a dependable, switch-hitting threat in manager Terry Francona’s lineup.
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Alonso’s signing would seem to end any speculation about either Michael Brantley or Jason Kipnis moving to first. Brantley is back despite the All-Star outfielder’s almost constant injuries the past two seasons, and Kipnis moved to the outfield last season so the Indians could keep Jose Ramirez at second base.
Alonso, who also has played for Cincinnati and San Diego, has a .268 career batting average with 67 homers and 306 RBIs. The Mariners acquired him from the Athletics in a trade last August.
Also on Friday, the Indians made minor league deals official with outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. and right-hander Alexi Ogando. Both players will be at big league training camp in Goodyear, Arizona.
Alsonso’s success at the plate in 2017 is a bit out of step with the rest of his career. However, a more patient approach at the plate plus changes to his swing in the service of elevating the ball more mean his strides might be sustainable. In any event, the Indians are betting that he can keep it up. Alonso was once a top-10 overall pick, so this kind of breakout has long been expected from him.
Cleveland found itself in need of a first baseman after incumbent Carlos Santana agreed to a surprise deal with the Phillies last week. The Indians are coming off a 102-win season and consecutive playoff appearances, so Alonso joins a roster that’s expected to contend for the World Series.