Athletics

Former A's All-Star first baseman signs multi-year deal with Cleveland

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AP

Former A's All-Star first baseman signs multi-year deal with Cleveland

CLEVELAND -- Yonder Alonso changed his swing last season and his statistics soared. The Indians hope they can rise even more.

Alonso, who reached a career high in home runs and made the All-Star team for the first time, signed a two-year, $16 million contract on Saturday with Cleveland, which found a less expensive replacement for first baseman Carlos Santana.

Alonso's deal, which includes a $9 million club option for 2020, was agreed to earlier in the week. He passed medical tests on Friday to finalize the package.

Last year, Alonso altered the "launch angle" in his swing and the ball began to jump off his bat. With a previous season high of nine homers in 2012 for San Diego, Alonso connected for 28 with Oakland and Seattle. Beyond tweaking his swing, Alonso, who hits left-handed, said a commitment to getting stronger pushed up his power numbers.

"It started about two years ago," he said. "A lot of times I'm in the weight room and I'm just a lot stronger than a lot of guys, and I feel healthier than I've ever been, and I felt like I needed to make some changes. I think for a baseball player, in itself to make changes is very hard, but I was able to get through that and realize that my body and my strength wasn't the problem. It started obviously mentally and it carried on physically.

"I changed some things up with my lower half. I got more flexible. I was able to be more explosive when I was attacking the ball and after just let my ability take over."

The Indians had a hole at first after Santana signed a three-year, $60 million contract with Philadelphia. It remains to be seen if Alonso can be as productive as Santana, who became a cornerstone, dependable player, but the 30-year-old fit into Cleveland's budget and the Indians believe his big season was not a fluke.

"It was a purposeful adjustment that Yonder made with both his approach and also some things with his swing that led to the increased productivity this year," Indians president Chris Antonetti said. "But it's also not a one-year trend. If you look at the underlying numbers for him, he's been a guy who has typically controlled the strike zone, been patient at the plate, and this year he made an adjustment to that approach and hit for some more power.

"That's also continuing a trend of building on improved exit velocities over the course of the last three or four seasons.

Alonso, who entered last season with just 39 career homers, also reached personal bests in runs (72), walks (68), on-base percentage (.365), slugging percentage (.501) and OPS (.866).

He is most excited about seeing his win totals increase with the defending AL Central champions. Alonso has spent the past few seasons admiring the Indians from the opposing dugout.

"They do all the little things right and I think to be a winning team, you have to do those things every single day," he said. "To be a good winning team, you've got to play small ball, you've got to play big ball, you've got to pitch, you've got to defend. I was able to see it on the other side. They did everything. They were very consistent. They looked healthier than a lot of teams. They were stronger. I think for me that's a huge thing, where they're all together and they're just a good group of guys, man.

"I got to see that quite a bit and I'm looking forward to it, to just be a part of that and do whatever I can to help the team."

New Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna takes jab at A's during media event

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AP

New Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna takes jab at A's during media event

While expressing his happiness to be with his new team, Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna took a swipe at the A’s during a media function in St. Louis on Sunday.

Ozuna’s name, you’ll remember, swirled in trade rumors earlier this offseason that he might be dealt from the Miami Marlins to Oakland. Instead, the two-time All-Star was traded to St. Louis, making him one of several big-name players Miami has shipped off as it looks to slash payroll.

While attending the Cardinals’ Winter Warm-Up event to preview this season, Ozuna was asked what it was like being dealt to a team that’s more focused on winning right away as opposed to the rebuilding Marlins.

“I feel happy about that,” Ozuna responded. “First thing when I heard they were trying to trade me to the Oakland A’s, I say … (long pause) Well, I say ‘God, please leave me over here.’ Then I heard they trade me to the Cardinals, I say ‘OK, thanks.’”

Ouch.

Well, it’s not the first time such an insult has been hurled the A’s way, whether directly or indirectly. Last winter, it came out that Matt Holliday — who spent part of 2009 with Oakland — had a no-trade clause included in his contract with the Yankees that prohibited him from being traded only to the A’s.

Is it surprising to hear Ozuna volunteer his thoughts about the A’s in a public forum? Perhaps.

Is it a shock that he’d feel that way in the first place? Definitely not.

It’s no secret the A’s reputation is one of a team that’s always looking to trade its best veteran players rather than spend the money to sign them long term. It’s also common knowledge that they play in an outdated ballpark that’s considered the worst in the majors.

No question, those are the dominant thoughts of players on the other 29 teams when they think of the A’s. And there’s no quick fix to that. National perception is tough to alter.

“Why doesn’t ownership just start spending more money on payroll?” you might ask. “That’s the best way to change perception.”

No arguments there, but we know from the past that isn’t going to happen. Clearly, majority owner John Fisher isn’t going to spend more freely on payroll — especially with the A’s being cut off from MLB’s revenue sharing system — unless he sees the potential for other forms of revenue to stream in.

It all points back to the critical need for the A’s to identify a ballpark site and begin construction on a new home. That will send a message around the majors that a plan is in motion, that better days are ahead.

Until then, the A’s can expect to absorb the occasional jab like that delivered by Ozuna. On the bright side for Oakland fans, they might have just identified Public Enemy No. 2, a player who can slot in right behind Holliday as their favorite opponent to vilify.

A's, Khris Davis avoid arbitration, but is this a long-term union?

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USATSI

A's, Khris Davis avoid arbitration, but is this a long-term union?

The A’s took care of a big piece of business with their top run producer, signing slugger Khris Davis to a one-year contract Wednesday and avoiding arbitration.

FanRag’s Jon Heyman reported the sides settled on a $10.5 million salary. That’s more than double the $5 million Davis made last season in his first trip through the arbitration process, but a huge raise was expected after Davis put up more monster numbers in his second year with Oakland.

His 43 home runs in 2017 ranked second in the American League and he was third in RBI with 110. Consider that Davis is the only major leaguer to crack the 40-homer mark in each of the past two seasons, and only Giancarlo Stanton has more total homers during that span (86 to Davis’ 85).

That obviously makes the 30-year-old Davis a valuable commodity.

“Back to back 40-homer years in this ballpark. You guys don’t talk about it enough,” A’s executive VP of baseball operations Billy Beane said in October. “When we acquired him (in a trade from Milwaukee) we knew we got a guy with a lot of power. I think we were thinking a 30-homer guy. The fact he’s gone 40 back-to-back is pretty amazing. He fits in perfectly here. I think having that big bat that Khris brings helps guys like (Matt) Olson and (Matt) Chapman.”

So it’s clear the A’s value Davis, and that’s why he hasn’t been traded thus far, as many around the game speculated he might be this winter. But where do things go moving forward?

He’ll be eligible for arbitration one more time next winter before he’s able to test free agency heading into the 2020 season. If you’re an A’s fan, you know where this is going. If July hits and the A’s are floundering in the standings, Davis no doubt will be a trade candidate. He’d have appeal as a proven slugger who would remain under team control for 2019.

But Davis is a rare breed. He loves playing in Oakland and doesn’t hide that fact. The pitcher-friendly Coliseum has done nothing to suppress his power. In fact, he’s thrived. His 26 home runs at the Coliseum in 2017 fell one short of Jason Giambi’s Oakland record for homers by a home player.

It would seem he’d be open to a long-term extension, and the sides reportedly have held past discussions about one. The A’s have designs on signing some of their younger core players to extensions. But you’d have to rank it as a surprise were they to actually complete an extension with Davis, given the money he would command.

More than likely, Beane and his staff will evaluate the team through the first half of the upcoming season, weigh the pros and cons of dealing him, and if he stays, enter through this arbitration process again next winter, knowing that he’ll command even more bucks on another one-year deal.

An ‘X’ factor is how Davis adjusts to his shift from left field to designated hitter. He told NBC Sports California in November that he prefers the outfield but will fill whatever role is best for the team.

The feeling here is that he’ll put up the same numbers that fans have grown accustomed to, and the ball will be in the A’s court as to how long he remains in green and gold.