On Tuesday afternoon, the Colorado Rockies decided to roll the bones on a veteran first baseman signed to a minor league contract. The move comes just over 48 hours after the Rockies designated a veteran first baseman who was signed to a minor league contract for assignment.
In the latest attempt to fortify a Colorado Rockies team that still believes it can reach its third consecutive postseason, the Rockies have brought up 32-year-old Yonder Alonso up from Triple-A Albuquerque. Alonso was activated in time for Tuesday night’s road series opener against the Washington Nationals.
Alonso was signed by the Rockies as a minor league free agent on July 10 after being released by the Chicago White Sox one week earlier. In nine games with Albuquerque, he batted .419 (13-for-31) with three doubles, one triple, two home runs and 12 RBI. He also walked five times while logging six strikeouts.
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To make room for Alonso on the 40-man roster, Colorado designated reliever Seunghwan Oh for assignment (we had news about him and his upcoming surgery here). Also, reliever Yency Almonte was sent to Triple-A to open up a 25-man roster spot. However, Almonte could be back with the team on Wednesday as the team’s 26th man during the Rockies-Nationals split doubleheader.
Of course, there is a reason why Alonso was cut by the White Sox. His .178/.275/.301 slash line in 251 plate appearances wasn’t enough reason for Chicago’s Southsiders to keep him on the roster (a refrain that seems very familiar to Rockies fans in terms of Mark Reynolds this season and his Sunday DFA). With 53 strikeouts in those 251 plate appearances (219 at-bats), Alonso was struggling to even put the ball in play at times.
Alonso’s recent play at the Major League level hasn’t been good but there are plenty of signs of hope that Alonso will produce for the Rockies. First, he earned All-Star status with Oakland in 2017 through the player vote as a reserve during his career-high 28-homer season. He followed that with 23 homers last season with Cleveland. Both of these seasons after never hitting more than nine in a campaign before that. The reason? According to this article…
"“(Alonso) has attributed the upsurge to a detailed critique and subsequent change of his swing mechanics, notably the addition of a leg kick he incorporated in the offseason after watching hours of video and chatting up countless peers. A transformative stance has his lower body in sync with his upper half, generating heaps of power.”"
Rockies manager Bud Black also has previous experience with Alonso, managing him for four years in San Diego (2012-2015). During those four campaigns, Alonso hit a combined .271/.339/.386 with an OPS+ of 106 during Alonso’s mid- to late-20s.
A first baseman who bats left-handed, Alonso doesn’t bring versatility to the Colorado lineup and it will be interesting to see how much time he gets with Daniel Murphy in the same position. It also ensures that Ryan McMahon will be holding down second base for the Rockies and not sliding back over to first.
Can Alonso bring more to the Rockies than Reynolds did this season? That could ultimately be what decides how good of a move this is for Colorado. A minor league signing is never a bad thing and the Rockies certainly are looking for a spark as they try to get back in the thick of the Wild Card chase.
At his best, Alonso could be like a trade deadline acquisition that provides a big bat off the bench in important situations. At his worst, he’ll perform at the level Reynolds did this season in that same role.
Was it worth it for the Rockies to take this chance? Absolutely. Now we’ll see exactly on what side of the productivity scale Alonso lands and how/if he boosts Colorado’s postseason chances.