There’s a reason teams don’t make a lot of moves based on a 6-week body of work. However, Yonder Alonso’s torrid start to the season has raised the question of whether the A’s should, and whether they might, pursue a contract extension with the free agent to be.
Armed with a new swing designed to lift the ball, Alonso has been a true bright spot so far, with a gaudy .291/.376/.664 slash line that features 12 HRs. Alonso is also one of the few Athletics whose defense is above average.
Though the A’s don’t often give contract extensions, there is precedent for Alonso being a strong candidate. He fits the "veteran leader" profile of predecessors Coco Crisp and Mark Kotsay, and could be an important bridge for a young team coming up over the next two seasons. Alonso is still relatively young, having just turned 30, so a 2-3 year deal would not be highly risky.
The A's like having key veterans anchoring the team and Alonso could be particularly appealing as someone who was openly excited to come to Oakland. If the A's believe he has really morphed from a James Loney type to a Freddie Freeman or Adrian Gonzalez type, it might make a lot of sense to lock Alonso up just as young talent such as Franklin Barreto, Matt Chapman, and Bruce Maxwell are arriving on the scene to stay.
The flip side is that the A's might already have their future 1Bman in the also LH swinging Matt Olson, and if Ryon Healy has a position beyond DH it is also 1B. Re-signing Alonso would mean pushing Olson exclusively to RF. Do the A's feel confident Olson will make enough contact to hit in the big leagues? Are they willing to forego his excellent 1B defense and ask him to continue growing into the COF? Maybe most of all, is Oakland willing to gamble that Alonso will not revert back to the light hitting player he has been for 5+ seasons before surging in 2017?
Some of these questions will answer themselves over time. The A's don't have to make any decisions right now and undoubtedly they would prefer to wait until around the All-Star break to consider whether an extension, a trade, both or neither, makes the most sense. By then they will know more about who Yonder Alonso is, and also about who Matt Olson is.
They will also have a better idea what Alonso's price tag would be and there lies a bit of a rub. The better Alonso plays the next 2 months, the more likely the A's would prefer to keep him -- but the higher his price tag might be. If an extension of 2/$20M would have been player friendly in April, it could be team friendly by July.
Would something like 2/$22M be appealing enough to Alonso, who has never had a big payday? Would something like 3/$42M be appealing enough to the A's, who rarely give out contracts of that length or scope? Is there a middle ground that might serve both sides? Or is Alonso just the latest of a wave of players who established themselves in Oakland only to blossom with someone else?
Alonso almost certainly will fall off from the pace he has established, but what if after regression he is still revealing 2017 to be a "breakout season"? The A's need all the good bats they can get, especially the rare ones who can also field. So far, that's Yonder Alonso. If you were in the A's shoes, and Alonso continues to hit for the next 2 months, what would you do?