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."

Evaluating A's arbitration in 2018 MLB offseason: Josh Phegley

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USATSI

Evaluating A's arbitration in 2018 MLB offseason: Josh Phegley

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

Josh Phegley served as the A's backup catcher in 2018, slashing .204/.255/.344 with two home runs and 15 RBI in 93 at-bats. Oakland performed extremely well with him in the lineup, going 20-7 in games he started.

Phegley, 30, is a career .223 hitter in six big-league seasons. His best year came in 2015 when he notched a career-high nine homers and 34 RBI in 73 games. 

Phegley earned $905K last season and is projected to get $1.2 million in arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors.

Why he might be a bargain

Phegley has proven to be a reliable backup catcher. He is solid defensively and can handle himself at the plate as well. He is also well-liked by his teammates, and knows how to manage Oakland's pitching staff.

Even if the A's re-sign starting catcher Jonathan Lucroy, Phegley could provide a nice insurance policy.

Why he might be too pricey

The projected number of $1.2 million could be a bit high for a backup catcher, especially with Beau Taylor in the mix for less money, and prospect Sean Murphy tearing it up in the minor leagues. If the A's do re-sign Lucroy, Phegley could become expendable.

Verdict

Phegley has done everything asked of him over the past four seasons in Oakland, but $1.2 million seems a bit high for a backup catcher, especially when Taylor would cost less than half that.

Murphy, who just turned 24, slashed.288/.358/.498 in 68 games with Double-A Midland last season and figures to be the A's catcher of the future. With both Taylor and Murphy in the mix, Oakland can probably afford to let Phegley go at that price tag.     

Evaluating A's arbitration in 2018 MLB offseason: Ryan Dull

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USATSI

Evaluating A's arbitration in 2018 MLB offseason: Ryan Dull

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

Ryan Dull split the 2018 season between Oakland and Triple-A Nashville. At the major league level, Dull made 28 appearances with a 4.26 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, with 21 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings.

In his four-year MLB career, the 29-year-old right-hander is 8-9 with a 3.63 ERA. Dull earned $555K last season and is projected to get $900K in arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors.

Why he might be a bargain

For just $900,000, Dull is certainly worth a look. His career numbers are solid, though he struggled at times over the past two seasons.

Dull likely won't be anything more than a depth reliever, but his arbitration projection is so low that the A's should at least consider bringing him back.

Why he might be too pricey

While Dull's numbers weren't terrible in 2018, he struggled to find his footing at the Major League level. He also had a rough time in 2017, going 2-2 with a 5.14 ERA and 1.26 WHIP.

Oakland has plenty of depth in the bullpen and there's a good chance Dull would spend much of 2019 in Triple-A.

Verdict

With all of the A's great young relief pitchers, Dull seems unlikely to return next season. Oakland has not been able to rely on him in big situations the past couple of seasons, and at 29 years old, his performance doesn't figure to drastically improve.

Even though Dull is only projected to get $900K, the A's could use that money to help keep other players around next season.