Yonder Alonso

How White Sox will put daily puzzle together now that Yonder Alonso is gone

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USA TODAY

How White Sox will put daily puzzle together now that Yonder Alonso is gone

The Jose Abreu/Yonder Alonso timeshare at first base and designated hitter is no more.

The White Sox designated Alonso for assignment Friday, bringing an end to his unproductive tenure with the club, during which he slashed a woeful .178/.275/.301. When the team acquired him in December, general manager Rick Hahn instantly committed to Alonso and Abreu splitting time at both first base and DH, a plan that would give Abreu a greater amount of rest, perhaps helping to extend the career of an over-30 player the White Sox seem to want to keep around past the end of his current contract at the end of this season.

Well, Alonso’s offensive struggles sank that idea. But other things have changed around just those two players. Daniel Palka was sent down quickly after he started the season 1-for-35, opening up a hole in right field. Leury Garcia has hit well enough to warrant the job as the everyday center fielder. Jon Jay missed the first two and a half months of the season. James McCann usurped Welington Castillo's spot at the top of the catching depth chart. And Zack Collins arrived from the minor leagues.

So now manager Rick Renteria finds himself with a much different puzzle to put together on a daily basis than he thought he was going to have three months ago. That’s baseball, of course, but it warrants a look at the new calculus as the White Sox approach the All-Star break.

First, what becomes of that first base/designated hitter timeshare? Well, it sounds like Abreu is back to being the team’s everyday first baseman, for the most part. Collins has been practicing there, as has Palka (who was called up Friday), both players far better hitters than they are defenders anywhere on the field. Collins, though, has the caveat of being a catcher, primarily, while Palka has long seemed best suited as a DH. And that’s where those two players will likely spend most of their time moving forward. They are options at first base — and were out early practicing the position with infield coach Joe McEwing ahead of Saturday’s game — but perhaps only in situations where Abreu really needs a day off.

“Probably not,” Renteria said Saturday, asked if Abreu would still be in a timeshare at first base, or at least one split in the way it was between Abreu and Alonso. “That would be inaccurate for me to say. But I do think that with Zack and Palky, they're out here working extremely hard with Joe. They're still going to be able to give him an opportunity to be spelled.

“We'll use the schedule to our advantage to see when we can get Pito off his feet a little bit. To be honest, he fights me all the time about days off, but we know that when we do give them to him he's refreshed. We'll try to take advantage of continuing to exploit the opportunities we'll be able to give Zack and Palky over at first base.”

Fans have pondered why Collins hasn’t gotten a heftier chunk of playing time since his promotion last week. He got the start at DH on Saturday, his fourth start in the 10 games the White Sox have played since he was called up. Unlike Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez, though, Collins arrived as a backup. It’s a bizarre situation for one of the organization's highly touted prospects, perhaps, but McCann has been so excellent this season, that Collins will not be stealing time away from him. But the nature of the catcher position means that McCann can’t and won’t start everyday.

So for those clamoring for Collins to be in the lineup on a daily basis, don’t expect it.

“Zack’s going to get opportunities behind the plate, which I think is important,” Hahn said Friday. “I like the fact that he’s working with James McCann on pregame, even on games he’s not catching, and working along with James in games to understand adjustments and what goes on to get through nine innings in a big league game. So there’s benefits even when he’s not necessarily in the starting lineup.

“That said, he’s going to get at-bats from behind the plate, he’s going to get at-bats at DH, and he’s probably going to get a few at-bats at first base here over the coming weeks, too.

“You guys have always heard me say, we don’t want guys to come here until they’re ready to have success. I should have, all along, put a little bit of a caveat on that for catchers because there’s a lot that goes on in learning how to be an everyday big league catcher, and a lot of it you can’t replicate at the minor league level.

“So from Zack’s standpoint, yes, we want him to learn as much as he can offensively, we want him to play as much as possible, but at the same time there’s a ton that he can take away from the defensive-preparation standpoint to in-game adjustments, scouting-report usage, interaction with pitchers and the coaching staff, that you can’t really get in the minors.

“So even if it’s not an extended stay or if it’s not necessarily extended play, there’s a lot of benefit to the kid from having him here now. That said, especially with the move with Yonder, there’s going to be more opportunity for him to get at-bats.”

Jay’s return gives the White Sox a tad more permanence in right field, though Renteria has said since spring training that Jay might not be an everyday player and he might play multiple different positions in the outfield.

The injury to Tim Anderson further complicates matters. Renteria’s preference seems to be shifting Garcia from center field to shortstop while Anderson’s on the injured list, which should be roughly four to six weeks as he battles back from a high ankle sprain. That means more playing time for Ryan Cordell and Charlie Tilson in the outfield alongside Jay and Eloy Jimenez. It might mean more opportunity for Palka in right field, too. Once Anderson returns, a regular outfield of Jimenez, Garcia and Jay seems a good bet.

A 162-game season features an awful lot of lineup permutations, so this type of discussion is much of a surprise. But the rebuilding White Sox finally have a situation where they have to fit pieces together who could all be part of the team’s long-term plans. Collins has been long assumed to be a part of that core along with the Jimenezes and Moncadas and Andersons. Well, McCann’s only 29 years old and easy to bring back for at least the 2020 season. Hahn has been pretty clear about the team’s desire to keep Abreu in the fold. And we’re not too far removed from speculating about Palka’s future value as a lefty DH or a power bat off the bench.

So how Renteria proceeds is not only of interest to fans hoping for wins on a daily basis but to anyone observing the development of these players and the construction of the roster moving forward.

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White Sox officially designate Yonder Alonso for assignment among other roster moves

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USA TODAY

White Sox officially designate Yonder Alonso for assignment among other roster moves

The White Sox officially moved on from Yonder Alonso on Friday, designating the veteran hitter for assignment a day after it was reported they would do just that.

Alonso was acquired in a December trade with the division-rival Cleveland Indians, and while fans focused on the fact he was the brother-in-law of mega free agent Manny Machado, who the White Sox pursued all winter, general manager Rick Hahn touted the 2017 All Star's offensive ability and mentorship potential inside the clubhouse.

On the field, none of that panned out, with Alonso posting a woeful .178/.275/.301 slash line with seven homers and 27 RBIs in his 67 games. Fans directed much of their frustrations at him, and the White Sox clearly started looking elsewhere for production both with Alonso's limited use during the month of June and the promotion of Zack Collins, who looked primed to further eat into at-bats that before the season started were allotted for Alonso.

Alonso's departure will dominate the conversation Friday, but it was one of four roster moves the White Sox made at the outset of a weekend series against the first-place Minnesota Twins.

Tim Anderson expectedly landed on the 10-day injured list after suffering a high ankle sprain Tuesday night at Fenway Park. The severity of the sprain is still unknown, but Anderson will miss at least 10 days and likely won't see any further action before the All-Star break, which comes in little more than a week. The team will certainly address what will happen at shortstop while Anderson is on the shelf, but it looks like Leury Garcia and Jose Rondon sharing duties there is a safe bet.

The White Sox also brought Daniel Palka back from Triple-A Charlotte, where the lefty slugger had been since being sent down on April 17. Palka notably began the 2019 season with the major league team but went hitless in his first 32 at-bats before picking up a pinch-hit single in that April 17 game against the Kansas City Royals. His 1-for-35 start prompted his being sent down to Charlotte, where he was able to turn things around, with a .271/.374/.548 slash line and 16 home runs in 59 games. Palka's power bat figures to replace the one the White Sox thought they were getting in Alonso, and a three-position timeshare of sorts between Jose Abreu, James McCann, Collins and Palka could be in the works at catcher, first base and DH, though Palka is capable of playing right field, as well, and will likely see time there, too.

Finally, the White Sox called up starting pitcher Ross Detwiler, who they signed as a minor league free agent earlier this season. The team's shredded starting-pitching situation adds another name at the big league level, and it'll be Detwiler getting the start Friday night against the high-powered Twins. It will be Detwiler's first big league start since the 2016 season. At Charlotte, the left-hander posted a 3.98 ERA in eight starts, striking out 35 batters in 43 innings.

Who knows how long Detwiler might be around. But Tommy John surgeries for Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodon, far more minor injuries that Dylan Covey and Manny Banuelos are still recovering from and the failed experiments of Ervin Santana and Odrisamer Despaigne have pushed the depth to its limits. The White Sox did recently sign Hector Santiago for his third go-round with the organization, and top pitching prospect Dylan Cease figures to make his major league debut before long. But right now, it's Detwiler.

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Report: White Sox designating struggling Yonder Alonso for assignment

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USA TODAY

Report: White Sox designating struggling Yonder Alonso for assignment

The White Sox are reportedly designating Yonder Alonso for assignment.

According to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, the White Sox have decided to move on from Alonso, who they acquired in a trade with the division-rival Cleveland Indians in December.

While the move could be considered surprising due to the caliber of player Alonso has been in his career — he was an All Star just two seasons ago — what's inarguable is that Alonso is in the midst of a very disappointing 2019 campaign. Acquired in part to provide a presence in the middle of the White Sox lineup, he's been unable to do that and owns just a .178/.275/.301 slash line with seven home runs, 13 extra-base hits and 27 RBIs in 67 games.

Alonso was given an opportunity to figure things out by manager Rick Renteria, who kept the veteran in the middle of the batting order through the first two months of the season, all while fans focused their frustration on Alonso, constantly complaining on Twitter that he was still with the team.

For better or worse, those fans have now, reportedly, gotten their wish.

Somewhat unfairly, Alonso has remained connected to the White Sox failed pursuit of mega free agent Manny Machado in the minds of many fans. While general manager Rick Hahn lauded Alonso's attributes as a hitter and as a clubhouse presence after he was acquired, a large number of fans chose to see his relationship to Machado — Alonso is Machado's brother-in-law — as the main reason for his acquisition. And the lack of production since has made those opinions difficult to change.

As for what the White Sox would do from here, the first base/designated hitter timeshare Alonso was ticketed to have with Jose Abreu before the season started had already crumbled a significant amount. Renteria lessened Alonso's playing time considerably in June, with Alonso starting just eight of the team's 21 games this month. James McCann's emergence has provided another option at DH on days when McCann isn't catching. Zack Collins' recent promotion could produce a sort of three-way timeshare between Abreu, McCann and Collins. Collins is a catcher, but questions about his defense behind the plate, as well as McCann's currently immovable status as the No. 1 catcher, has forced him to try out first base, as well. So Abreu could maintain his stronghold on the playing time at first base, McCann could be the No. 1 catcher and Collins could be the go-to option at DH, subbing in on the field when those two need a day.

That's one possible option. Though with injured shortstop Tim Anderson likely heading to the injured list ahead of this weekend's series against the Minnesota Twins, a whole bunch of moves could be on the way and new faces could be up from the minor leagues. A potential call-up could come in the form of Daniel Palka, who would factor into that DH discussion, as well, though that's merely speculation that the White Sox would want to replace the power bat they thought they were getting in Alonso with another power bat in Palka.

None of this is official yet, of course, and we'll have to wait and see how the White Sox actually proceed.

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