Chicago Acquires Altmann, Cheshire Looking to Remain Top Dogs
American Association Daily provides insights, features, and recaps of the action from around the American Association of Professional Baseball League, as well as player and coaching profiles and transactions. In today’s edition, Robert Pannier looks at the trade that sent infielder Josh Altmann and pitcher Jonathan Cheshire to the Chicago Dogs and how that make them the team to beat in the American Association.
A History of Big Bats
There was a stretch of two seasons (2019-2020) where the Chicago Dogs had two of the most feared bats in the American Association. Keon Barnum played just one season in Chicago (2019), but set a then American Association record for homers (31) in 98 games. Victor Roache played two seasons for the Dogs, hitting 24 homers in 2019 and adding 16 in 58 games in 2020. The two were absolutely devastating, making this one of the most dangerous lineups in the league.
Over the last two seasons, Chicago has had solid home run hitters. K.C. Hobson hit 23 in 2021, and followed that up with 15 this last season. Grant Kay led the team this last year with 21. Both players provided solid offensive seasons, but the team has needed that additional bat, that one hitter who add some additional fears into the hearts of opposing pitchers.
Dogs Acquire Josh Altmann, Jonathan Cheshire
That problem may have been resolved when Manager Butch Hobson made a blockbuster deal over the weekend, acquiring infielder Josh Altmann and pitcher Jonathan Cheshire from the Lincoln Saltdogs. This should help to make Chicago the most potent lineup in the East Division, and may help to make them the best team in the American Association overall.
While it has not been officially announced, it would not be surprising if both Kay and Hobson return this season. If the two matched their homerun production from the previous two seasons, that is 30+ homers out of the gate. Now Altmann joins the group, bringing his 44 homers over the last two seasons. That should make as formidable a 3-5 or 2-4 in the lineup as any in the American Association
The numbers have been impressive for Altmann. He joined the Saltdogs in 2021, appearing in 85 games where he hit 29 homers, scored 69 runs, and had 72 RBI. He was an MVP candidate that season, and became one of the most feared hitters in the league. This last season the numbers tailed off, as he hit 15 homers and drove in 69 in 95 games. However, part of the problem was that there was a minimal amount of offensive support around Altmann, something that should not be a problem in Chicago.
The Dogs finished seventh in run scored last season (554) and were tied for sixth in homeruns (109). Those all sound like solid numbers, but five of the other seven playoff teams from last season had more homeruns and all but one of those teams (Lincoln) had more run scored. Clearly, Chicago needed to up their game and Hobson did just that, acquiring a premium hitter that is also an outstanding shortstop. This team will likely now enter the 2023 American Association season as the presumptive favorites to win the East Division once again.
Hold On… It Does Not End There
If that was the only acquisition that Hobson made, it would be quite a feather in his cap. However, and the addition of Cheshire may be just as pivotal to the success of this team.
The right-hander began his career in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, reaching AAA Buffalo in 2019. After the pandemic canceled the 2020 minor league season, Chesshire joined the Minnesota Twins organization, splitting time between High-A Cedar Rapids and AA-Wichita, where he was a combined 3-3 with a 4.42 ERA in 15 appearances.
The right-hander was released following the 2021 campaign, and became an instant success with the Saltdogs. In 34 games, he posted a 3.10 ERA, going 2-2 with a save. The numbers were solid, as Cheshire allowed 46 hits and just 11 walks in 40.2 innings while striking out 47. He joins what should be an already formidable Dogs bullpen, only helping to solidify the idea that it is a six inning game for most opponents if they are going to do any damage to this pitching staff.
And for Lincoln?
Lincoln acquired two players to be named later in the deal. No further details were provided, so it is unknown whether those two players will be sent to the Saltdogs prior to the 2023 season getting underway or if it will be after the season is over. Traditionally, the “player to be named later” deals are completed following that season, so Lincoln may receive no help this year.
This seems like Lincoln was the big losers in the deal, but the reality is that it is likely that both Altmann and Cheshire asked for deals to be closer to home. Altmann grew up in Illinois and Cheshire is from Grand Rapids, Michigan, making Chicago one of the closest American Association teams to his home.
So, while the Saltdogs may reap no benefits from trading two of their top players to another club in the league, this demonstrates another class move by Manager Brett Jodie, looking to do what was best for his players. Plus, knowing the intelligence of Jodie and the fairness of Hobson, one can expect that two very good players will be heading toward Nebraska once the season is over.
By Robert Pannier