Athletics

Alonso plans to share first All-Star experience with his father

Alonso plans to share first All-Star experience with his father

OAKLAND — Yonder Alonso typically isn’t one to talk about himself, preferring to redirect most media questions into responses that praise his A’s teammates.

On Sunday, he talked in a very personal tone about what it meant to be chosen to his first All-Star Game. His words revealed just how much the honor means to him and how long of a journey it was to get to this point.

“You’re looking at a guy that almost got non-tendered last year to a guy now in the middle of the lineup, playing the game and full of confidence,” Alonso said.

Manager Bob Melvin called him into his office about 30 minutes before Sunday’s 4-3 loss to Atlanta and delivered the news that Alonso had been voted into the All-Star Game as a reserve via the players’ voting. He briefly led the fan voting to be the American League starter at first base but wound up finishing fourth, with Toronto’s Justin Smoak being selected to start.

As the A’s most obvious All-Star candidate, he also could have been chosen as one of AL manager Terry Francona’s picks. But being voted in by his peers meant so much to Alonso.

“I’m just grateful for my peers seeing me every day. It means so much to know that they obviously take it seriously,” he said. “They obviously know what’s happening in the game. I’m just so thankful and full of emotions right now.”

The 30-year-old native of Cuba arrived to the A’s in a trade from San Diego before the 2016 season, bringing with him the reputation of a player who had trouble staying healthy and hadn’t delivered the power numbers typically expected of a first baseman.

Toward the end of last season, he set about changing things, re-working his stance in a way that’s provided power that many probably didn’t think he was capable of in the majors. Never in his previous seven seasons had Alonso even cracked double figures in home runs. Already this season, just one game past the halfway point, Alonso has blown away his career high with 17 homers. He’s hitting .281 with 38 RBI and a team-best .933 on base-plus-slugging percentage.

“I couldn’t be happier for him,” A’s reliever Sean Doolittle said. “He came into spring training after working really hard this offseason to make some adjustments to add that power stroke to his game. It’s awesome to see a guy like that, who's been in the league for a little while, to go play in his first All-Star Game.

And to have it be at home where he’s from, you can’t write it any better than that.”

Yes, Miami became home for Alonso and his family after they defected from Cuba when he was 10. In a first-person story for The Players Tribune, Alonso wrote in fascinating detail about the sacrifices his parents, Luis and Damarys, made to support he and his younger sister, Yainee. Alonso described how he would come back from college baseball road trips while playing for the University of Miami and immediately go help his father clean warehouses and office buildings.

Now he’s eager to share the All-Star experience with his father in the lead-up to the July 11 game at Marlins Park in Miami.

“I told my Dad I’m gonna try to make him be a player as much as I am, and enjoy the festivities as much as I am,” Alonso said. “He’ll definitely get to enjoy the moment.”

***

Alonso becomes just the fifth A’s first baseman to become an All-Star since the team moved to Oakland in 1968. The A’s went 19 years before getting a first baseman into the Midsummer Classic with the first of nine appearances by Mark McGwire:

Mark McGwire (1987, 1988*, 1989*, 1990*, 1991*, 1992*, 1995, 1996, 1997)

John Jaha (1999)

Jason Giambi (2000*, 2001)

Brandon Moss (2014**)

Yonder Alonso (2017)

*denotes the player was voted to start)

**Moss actually appeared in more games as an outfielder in ‘14

Evaluating A's arbitration in 2018 MLB offseason: Marcus Semien

Evaluating A's arbitration in 2018 MLB offseason: Marcus Semien

(Over the next week, we will be examining each of the A's arbitration-eligible players to determine whether they will return in 2019.)

Marcus Semien was a staple at shortstop for the A's in 2018, playing in 159 of the team's 162 games. Semien slashed .255/.318/.388 with 15 home runs and 70 RBI. He set career highs with 161 hits, 35 doubles, 89 runs, and 14 stolen bases.

Semien, 28, also had the best defensive season of his career, ranking third among American League shortstops with nine defensive runs saved. He and the A's avoided arbitration last season, agreeing to a $3.125 million deal. This year, Semien is projected to get a healthy raise to $6.6 million in arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors.

Why he might be a bargain

Semien has turned into a solid all-around shortstop. He provides power, speed, and defense, and is entering his prime at 28 years old. His 4.3 WAR was the best of his career and tied for third among AL shortstops.

Semien is also extremely durable. having played at least 155 games in three of his four seasons with the A's. The Bay Area native can also hit just about anywhere in the order.

Why he might be too pricey

Only Khris Davis earned more than $6.6 million this past season in Oakland, so it's certainly a high price to pay. While Semien has both power and speed, he's not superb in either area. He recorded a .706 OPS this season, 22 points below the league average.

We've talked about 22-year-old Franklin Barreto as an option at second base if the A's don't re-sign Jed Lowrie, but Barreto can play shortstop too. Oakland could surprise everyone by keeping Lowrie and letting Semien go, allowing Barreto to take over an everyday role at short.

Verdict

While Barreto is an intriguing option at shortstop, you still have to think Semien will be back in Oakland next season. At the age of 28, he is just entering his prime and his defensive improvement has turned him into a valuable all-around player. Semien's durability and versatility in the lineup also help his case to earn that $6.6 million figure. Of course, there's always a chance the two sides agree to a deal to avoid arbitration like last season. Stay tuned.

Evaluating A's arbitration in 2018 MLB offseason: Mark Canha

Evaluating A's arbitration in 2018 MLB offseason: Mark Canha

(Over the next week, we will be examining each of the A's arbitration-eligible players to determine whether they will return in 2019.)

Mark Canha is coming off the best season of his career.

The 29-year-old slashed .249/.328/.449 with a career-high 17 home runs and 52 RBI. Canha also set or matched career-highs in doubles, walks, OPS, OPS+, and WAR.

The San Jose native feasted on left-handed pitching, slashing .282/.337/.604 with 13 homers in 149 at-bats. The 13 round-trippers off southpaws were tied for second in the American League.

Canha earned $547,500 in 2018 and is projected to get a healthy raise to $2.1 million in arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors.

Why he might be a bargain

Canha tears up left-handed pitching and could be a solid starting option in left field against southpaws. His versatility is valuable as well, as he can play any outfield position, not to mention first base. He can also provide a nice power option off the bench.

Canha has become a very popular player in the A's clubhouse and his excitement for hitting home runs is contagious. His "Bat Flippin' Season" t-shirts are a huge hit among players and fans alike, and his personality represents the A's well. Canha's departure would represent a significant loss both on the field and in the clubhouse.

Why he might be too pricey

The A's already have a crowded outfield and Canha is probably only a platoon player in the outfield. Stephen Piscotty and Ramon Laureano have basically locked up everyday roles in right and center, so Canha would likely only start in left field against left-handed pitchers. The A's might decide that $2.1 million is too much for that type of role, especially since they also have younger outfield options in Chad Pinder and Dustin Fowler. While Canha can also play first base, Matt Olson is extremely durable, having played in all 162 games this past season.

Verdict

We're leaning toward Canha returning to Oakland for another season. Between his power hitting ability and clubhouse personality, he provides plenty of value to the team. Canha's versatility might be his best trait, as he can fill in at any outfield position as well as first base, and you can never have too much depth. For just over $2 million, Canha is a solid bet to remain in green and gold in 2019.