The multi-part Around the Horn series, which features a position-by-position look at Oakland's projected starters and backup options heading into the season, begins at first base.
OAKLAND -- The A's parted ways with the non-tendered Ike Davis and are moving on with a platoon pairing in Mark Canha and newcomer Yonder Alonso, who was acquired in a Dec. 2 trade that sent lefty Drew Pomeranz to San Diego. The bulk of playing time is expected to fall on Alonso, though Canha will surely rack up innings here against left-handers when not playing in left field.
Alonso doesn't profile as your typical power-infused corner infielder, having totaled no more than nine home runs in a single season and no more than seven since 2012, but he's reached base at a .340 clip over his six-year playing career. Last year, he hit .282/.361/.381 with five home runs and 31 RBIs in 402 plate appearances for the Padres, numbers that are pretty standard for the 28-year-old. Alonso boasts a good amount of plate discipline, though it's typically seen in limited strikeouts rather than high walk totals.
• A's acquire Alonso, Rzepczynski from Padres
The power at this position will come from Canha, who put together an excellent rookie season last year. The Rule 5 Draft pick had no trouble sticking on the roster, hitting .254 with 16 home runs and 70 RBIs, which led American League rookies. Canha sported reverse splits, hitting .271 with 13 of his home runs against right-handers, compared to .221 when facing lefties.
Together, Alonso and Canha could provide the A's a necessary jolt at first base, after the club's first basemen finished in the bottom half of the AL in home runs (19), RBIs (82) and slugging percentage (.411) last season, which largely stemmed from Davis' health issues and limited production.
The A's made defense a priority this offseason following a poor 2015 performance, and Alonso's defensive prowess was clearly valued above all else when the A's decided to sacrifice Pomeranz. At the time of the trade, general manager David Forst deemed Alonso "one of the best defensive first basemen in the game, if not the best," and said his glovework warrants an everyday role. Canha, meanwhile, made significant improvements on defense while juggling multiple positions last year and is considered at least average at first base.
Beyond Alonso and Canha, the A's have several fill-in options already residing on the roster, including Stephen Vogt, who could play some first when Josh Phegley is catching. Third baseman Danny Valencia and outfielder Jake Smolinski are considered serviceable options, probably more so than designated hitter Billy Butler, who clocked in little work at first base last year.
Max Muncy also remains an option at both corner infield spots, and it won't be too long before power-hitting first base prospect Matt Olson is deemed big league ready. Ranked by MLB.com as the organization's No. 2 prospect, Olson is expected to begin the season with Triple-A Nashville.