In terms of Oakland A's lore, Yonder Alonso's legacy will always be linked with Drew Pomeranz. The A's traded Pomeranz as a reliever, and in that sense they got good value for him with Alonso and replacement lefty Marc Rzepczynski. But then Pomeranz emerged as a starter, made the All-Star team, and was dealt again for a significantly better return. It turns out Oakland sold low on him, and Alonso will naturally be linked to that feeling of disappointment. To make matters worse, the first baseman is having an awful year, with an 86 OPS+ and a valuation slightly below replacement-level.
But the story of Alonso's season isn't told by a simple look at his overall numbers. Exhibit A:
Alonso, Apr/May: .209/.271/.281, 1 HR, 13 BB, 27 Ks (in 166 PAs)
Alonso, Jun/Jul: .320/.387/.456, 3 HR, 14 BB, 14 Ks (in 142 PAs)
That's like night and day, black and white, salsa and The Elaine. Alonso was almost completely useless at the plate in April, then he upgraded to just bad in May, followed by good in June, and even slightly better in July. That slow start still counts, and it's one of the many reasons the A's hopes of contention never really left the ground, but the new reality is that he's currently one of the A's best hitters.
Over the last two months, Stephen Vogt has caught fire and regained his own All-Star form, but Alonso has been the best of the rest. The power displays of Khris Davis and Marcus Semien have been wonderful, Josh Reddick is picking up right where he left off in his triumphant return, and Ryon Healy is off to a great start (dang, it feels good to have this long a list of players who are hitting well!). But Alonso has just been plugging along, racking up hits and getting on base and avoiding making outs, all while chipping in a bit of power as well.
So what should the A's do next? Alonso is finally playing like the guy they thought they were getting, a slick-fielding first baseman with a productive bat (though the metrics don't like his glovework). Is this two-month resurrection enough to make him look like a guy to keep for 2017, as the best option for first base? Or, alternatively, is it enough to get another team to offer a worthwhile trade at the deadline, which could also serve the dual purpose of freeing space at first base for either Danny Valencia or a prospect from Triple-A Nashville? The first question is which version of Alonso to expect moving forward, and the second question is what to do with him if you think it'll be the good version.
Alonso in under team control next season before he becomes eligible for free agency, so holding on to him doesn't mean losing him for nothing in two months. And to complicate matters by tossing emotion into things, it's tough to forget how excited he was to come to Oakland as well as how genuinely happy and fun-loving he appears to be on the field. It's especially easy to root for a player like that. But if a team gets desperate over the next couple weeks and offers to overpay for his services, then the A's probably need to go that route. Even Good Alonso isn't a player they can't live without, and the A's do have several intriguing options they could turn to (led by Valencia). The 2017 team can make do, if it's of worthwhile benefit to 2018 and beyond.
And if no one bites, then the downside is keeping the second-hottest hitter in the lineup, shaking his hips toward the dugout with every big hit. It's easy to be disappointed with Alonso's chapter so far, but the book isn't quite done being written and he might be on the way to salvaging some redemption.
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