This is the time of year when teams are evaluating the depth both on their 40 man roster as well as in their minor league systems leading into spring training. Teams are looking for guys with upside to give shots at roster spots, competition in areas of weakness, and insurance policies in the case that key players get hurt.
That last bit seems to be at least part of the motivation for the Braves’ signing this evening.
Free-agent 1B Yonder Alonso has signed a minor-league deal with the #Braves, source tells The Athletic.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 4, 2020
It is, at times, easy to forget that one of the Braves’ best hitters, Freddie Freeman, is coming off a rather unpleasant injury that hampered him in the latter portion of the 2019 season. While the surgery to correct his issues with bone spurs in his elbow has a good prognosis and we have already gotten positive news from him about it this offseason, having a backup plan in the minor leagues (especially with essentially a complete lack of first base options in the minor leagues beforehand) is far from a bad thing.
All of that said, Yonder Alonso isn’t likely to be a guy that is going to threaten for a lot of playing time without a pretty big turnaround. In 335 plate appearances last season, Alonso posted a -1.2 fWAR with a .199/.296/.346 line. Now, some of that was thanks to a shockingly low .224 BABIP, but there is definitely limits to the upside of this move. However, for a minor league signing to have an emergency option if something were to happen to Freddie, there is little downside here.