After a forgettble season with the Mets in 2016, Alejandro De Aza has signed a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training with the Oakland Athletics. The A’s will be De Aza’s fourth team since 2014. He will most likely compete for a reserve role on the bench with the A’s.
De Aza signed a one-year, $5.75 million deal in the 2015 offseason, expecting to serve as the primary center fielder in 2016. That plan was quickly thrown out the window once Yoenis Cespedes fell unexpectedly into the Mets’ lap and pushed De Aza into a bench role.
It wasn’t long until Mets fans were calling for De Aza’s head. He drew just 32 plate appearances in April and hit .207/.281/.345 with one home run. May didn’t treat De Aza any more kindly, as he made 22 plate appearances and hit a ghastly .190/.227/.190 with zero home runs.
It appeared De Aza’s time in New York was about to come to an end in June. In a game on June 26 against the Atlanta Braves, Wilmer Flores was on first base in the 10th inning when De Aza popped up a bunt and slammed his bat down in disgust. De Aza failed to run and Braves pitcher Jim Johnson let the ball drop and turned a double play to end the inning.
Terry Collins didn’t hesitate to criticize De Aza after the game, saying, “I’ve seen [De Aza] play, and the one thing he is known for is how hard he plays. But it goes to show you—everybody gets frustrated when they don’t do the job.” De Aza did accept blame for not getting the bunt down but offered no apology for his lack of hustle.
Collins’s words seemed to motivate De Aza, who he came alive in July. The 32-year-old hit .375/.500/.531 with 12 hits—just three fewer than he had in all of April, May, and June combined. He was also seeing regular playing time by the end of July because of Cespedes’s nagging quad injury.
With Cespedes on the disabled list in August, De Aza started 17 games. The batting average in August won’t amaze anyone—.164—but he had his most productive month with 12 hits, three home runs, and 14 RBIs.
August and September continued the upward trend for De Aza. He wrapped up the regular season hitting .265/.366/.353 with one long ball and four RBIs. He did make the postseason roster for the Wild Card game against the San Francisco Giants but did not see any action in the Mets’ 3-0 loss.
All told, De Aza ended up batting .205/.297/.321 with six home runs, 25 RBIs, and the best walk rate of his career. Considering where De Aza’s season started, it could have turned out much worse. Still, De Aza might be clumped together with Sandy Alderson’s past free agent signings like Chris Young and John Mayberry Jr. However, De Aza did last an entire season unlike the other two.