Former Red’s and National’s GM Jim Bowden wrote a column for ESPN naming all the available players at each position. At first base he mentioned Padre first baseman, Yonder Alonso, and in his brief write up about Alonso he mentioned an interesting trade idea.
"He’s a first baseman with just two home runs, so he doesn’t have a lot of trade value. That said, he’d be a good fit with the Astros thanks to his .382 OBP; perhaps a swap for a disappointing first baseman such as Jon Singleton is possible."
A Yonder Alonso for Jon Singleton swap is an intriguing one. Both were originally top prospects that were traded to their respective franchises in blockbuster deals. Upon reaching the big leagues they’ve both been disappointments. Alonso has been a serviceable first baseman, but is yet to develop the power that is expected out of a first baseman, but he’s been able to get on base at an above average rate. Singleton is the opposite. In 95 games last year he hit 13 home runs, which is 4 more than Alonso has hit in a single season and more than a third of his career total in roughly a quarter of the plate appearances. Unfortunately for him he hit .168/.285/.335, and he hasn’t been much better in his first 15 games of 2015, hitting just .171/.286/.220.
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So why would the Padres give up a somewhat reliable bat for someone who doesn’t look like they can handle big league pitching? It’s because Alonso is only under control for two more seasons, while Singleton has a ridiculously team friendly deal that runs all the way through 2021 and still has a lot of upside. For the next three seasons Singleton will be paid $2 million and then has team options for 2019, 2020 and 2021 which are worth $2.5 million, $5 million and $13 million respectively. The 2019 option has a $500k buyout while the 2020 and 2021 options each have $250k buyouts. That’s a very low risk contract, so even if he doesn’t pan out the Padres are only on the hook for $6 million, plus whatever they pay him for the final 2 months of 2015 and the $500k buyout.
As for Singleton’s upside, despite his big league struggles, he’s always been a big time hitter at every minor league level. In parts of seven minor league seasons he’s hit .279/.387/.477 with 92 home runs and 384 RBI. A concern would be his strikeout rate which was 22%, but his walk rate of 15% is fantastic. While the high walks could be credited in large part to inexperienced pitchers pitching around him, but he’s posted a walk rate of 14% in the majors so I doubt it’s a fluke.
With that kind of upside parting with Singleton for Alonso seems like a lot for the Astros, but if they’re all in for this year it makes a lot of sense for them. Singleton is currently blocked by Chris Carter, who isn’t a great first baseman, but if the Astros are playing Carter over Singleton, there’s little reason to believe they’ll suddenly shift course turn to Singleton given his big league struggles. Alonso would be a good fit to start of Carter in Houston, though, because he can hit over .200 unlike their in house options. Removing a usual automatic out who from time to time can run into a home run ever once in a while in favor of a guy who can get on base at high rate, with power hitters all around him would be a significant boost to their lineup.
This is the kind of deal that benefits both sides now and going forward. The Padres get an affordable and under control first baseman and the Astros improve their lineup to make a run in 2015 and get to keep Alonso for another two seasons. With the Astros and Padres talking about trades it’s certainly a plausible deal. Hopefully Preller and Luhnow get it done.
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