CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – For a normally risk-adverse front office in the Cleveland Indians, the signing of first baseman Yonder Alonso is a departure from the norm.
Alonso produced in 2017 on a one-year deal, but his season, and career for that matter, have been volatile in terms of production.
The 30-year-old’s bump in power was well-noted, almost matching his career total in one season due to a change in swing trajectory. Granted, a two-year, $16 million dollar deal is not a tremendous commitment, but it could be should the adjustment not take.
Even in the second half of 2017 alone, Alonso’s numbers took a sharp downturn. So is his contract based on a half-year of production?
Spotrac, a sports contract-tracking website that has generally overestimated market values on the year (with Carlos Santana at 5-years, $91.5M, but got 3-years, $60M for example), has Alonso estimated at just one year, $7.1M. The Indians gave him more years and more money per.
On a year-to-year basis, the numbers make sense, but how do you draw out a payment figure for an erratic career trajectory?
If Alonso can replicate what he did in total for 2017 in the next two to three seasons, the Indians will have gotten a total bargain. If they get many aspects of the oft-injured, sub-.400 slugging bat from a power position that their signee was for his seven years prior, they will have massively overpaid.
Luckily, this mechanics-based switch is one that has brought success across the league, making it appear sustainable. Josh Donaldson turned his flyball rate into an MVP season, a process that started four years ago and has spread.
There is reason to believe Alosno’s changes will continue to produce just by looking at his swing profile. His swinging strikes are up, though his zone% is down, which will produce more strikeouts, but show an aggression common with such an approach. His patience was already apparent in his O-Swing%, but Alonso is now swinging at more balls in the zone and less first-pitch strikes.
Couple that with a FB% that has jumped from 27.8% in 2015 to 33.3% in 2016 and 43.2% last season, it seems Alonso is adjusting well.
Baseball is a game of adjustments, and as the hitters have adjusted, the pitchers will adjust in turn. The same can be said for the curveball revolution on the other side.
The point being, while nothing is ever certain in baseball, Yonder Alonso seems to be even less certain than that.