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John "Boog" Powell, a 6-foot-4 slugger born in 1941, was the Orioles' first baseman throughout the 60s and early 70s, the big bopper and throw scooper for a defensively brilliant infield that featured Brooks Robinson at third base and Mark Belanger at shortstop. Powell was named AL MVP in 1970, beating out Tony Oliva, Harmon Killebrew, and Carl Yastrzemski for the award as the Orioles won 108 games and the World Series. He also finished runner-up for MVP the previous season, losing out to Killebrew, and finished third in the 1966 voting behind Orioles teammates Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson. Powell made four All-Star teams, smacked 339 home runs among 1,776 hits, and totaled a 134 OPS+ in 17 seasons that matches the career marks of Fred McGriff, Prince Fielder, and Al Kaline.
Herschel "Boog" Powell, a 5-foot-10 outfielder born in 1993, is … well, not him. Boog 2.0 was picked by the A's in the 20th round of the 2012 draft, got traded to the Rays in January of 2015 as part of the Ben Zobrist deal, and then moved to the Mariners that same year as part of the Logan Morrison swap. Now he's headed back to the A's, this time as the return for two months of a rental first baseman who may or may not have discovered the key to his long-forgotten power potential. Not That Boog Powell has just 15 homers in six seasons as a minor leaguer, but he controls the strike zone well and has hit .288/.365/.402 in 178 games at Triple-A, including .340 in 58 games this season. He runs pretty well and has experience playing all three outfield spots, which gives him a decent chance to carve out a niche as a useful backup and/or platoon starter versus right-handed pitching. —Aaron Gleeman
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Acquired 1B-L Yonder Alonso from Oakland Athletics in exchange for OF-L Boog Powell. [8/6]
Surprisingly, for a top-10 draft pick and highly-rated prospect, Alonso's career arc in MLB can be boiled down to this: he’s a guy who had trouble being wanted.
After being drafted by Cincinnati, Alonso was well and truly blocked by one of the game’s hitting savants in Joey Votto. So, he became the co-centerpiece of the extremely interesting first Mat Latos trade. In San Diego, he never truly got off to a good start as the team’s first baseman, and it wasn’t long at all before Padres fans started looking for anyone else to take over at the cold corner. When a team’s first baseman doesn’t provide jaw-dropping power, the knives tend to come out quickly.
But when things started to look untenable in San Diego two seasons ago, Oakland did want him, dealing Drew Pomeranz to the Padres in a deal to acquire him. In 2016, they gave Alonso every chance to succeed, and he didn’t. Coming into this year, the Athletics—against all odds and every bit of outsider analysis—gave him another chance at an everyday job. Finally Alonso, still wanted, broke through and gave his team a reason to want him. After never cracking double-digits in homers during any of his previous seasons, Alonso finally unlocked his power in Oakland this spring.
It was well-reported that the shift was due to a change in approach that saw him lifting the ball in the air more, and it made for a fabulous story. In essence, he was a living data point for the game’s “fly-ball revolution.” But the heat of summer brought with it a cooler bat, muting his blazing start to the season. Combine that with a tepid first base market at the deadline, and that’s a mix that makes for an August slow jam of a deal, rather than a pre-deadline banger. Now, rather than hang onto their asset for a couple of (hopefully) dinger-filled months before free agency, the Athletics were finally ready to let go of their unwanted first baseman, and let the kids play in his stead. Again, at least for now, Alonso is wanted by a new team. We’ll see how long it lasts this time.
The Mariners aren’t afraid of your busted first base prospects, your bat-first clunkers, your slugless sluggers. This is the team of Jesus Montero. This is the team of Justin Smoak. World-class threes who never panned out are this team’s stock-in-trade. It’s only fitting that he’ll likely platoon at first base with another former Athletic whose stock surged in Oakland only to drift north with the wind: Danny Valencia. Both halves of the platoon are streaky and capable of augmenting their on-base percentage with power, so perhaps the M’s are hoping that they can get both players’ performance waves to crest at the same time? On the other hand, Alonso and Valencia have career True Averages of .268 and .265, respectively, so average-ish production might be the name of the game.
Make no mistake, if Alonso is the hitter he was prior to his move to Oakland this offseason, he might make the Mariners worse rather than better; he’s a bad baserunner and bad-to-average defender (depending on your metric of choice). But if there’s still a chance he could get back to bashing right-handed pitching close to how he did in May, then he could be a worthwhile addition to this Mariners team. And they’ll need every chance they can get to catch the Wild Card. Perhaps this is just another stop along the way, perhaps Alonso will find a new place to be wanted—at least for a little while—when he hits free agency this offseason. But maybe it feels good to be wanted again, if only for a few months. —Bryan Grosnick
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