Well, this is interesting. Jorge Ebro of the El Nuevo Herald has reported that Cuban slugger Jose Dariel Abreu has defected in the Caribbean. Abreu is a young first baseman that Grantland's Jonah Keri stated last season "just might be the best hitter in the world."
It just so happens that the Boston Red Sox have a glaring need for a long-term fixture at first base at the major league level. First base is the one area of the Boston organization where the Red Sox don’t have an immediate answer for next season or for years to come.
The Sox Prospects website doesn’t list one first baseman within the top 20 prospects of the team.
MLB Trade Rumors' Charlie Wilmoth has more of the story, breaking down Abreu's defection and examining his potential timeline at becoming available as a free agent.
Last winter, the Red Sox signed Mike Napoli to a long-term deal that was renegotiated once it was discovered that Napoli had a degenerative hip condition. Boston was very fortunate that the medical issue was found and they were able to renegotiate Napoli’s contract to a one-year deal.
Napoli started the season strongly, aiding the Red Sox in their strong start to the season, but he has fallen off as the season has worn on. While Napoli has given the Red Sox roughly what they would have expected, it is unlikely that the Red Sox would commit more than a one-year deal to Napoli after this season.
Changing Napoli's contract has given the Red Sox a lot of flexibility going into this offseason, including making a splash by signing a player like Abreu.
The dual attraction to a player like Abreu is that he would simply cost the Red Sox money and he might be a plug-and-play signing. The recent success of players like Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes shows that Cuban-born players are beginning to have a huge impact on MLB and can have an immediate impact at the major league level.
The 26-year-old Abreu would fit nicely into the Red Sox lineup as a replacement for Napoli, giving the Red Sox another young player to build around, adding another young asset to their strong minor league system. Abreu should be entering his prime years as he enters MLB.
The recent bidding war for another Cuban defector, pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, shows that major league teams are becoming increasing more comfortable committing big contracts to Cuban players.
Even if the Red Sox were to commit $50 million to Abreu, it would be far less than a premium free agent hitting the market in his prime, with far less risk attached then spending $100 million to an aging and more established player.
Reading Keri's Grantland article again, it is easy to dream about the Red Sox having their own version of Puig, someone that can come in a be and star right away. Someone that can torment the New York Yankees for years to come.
The Red Sox have positioned themselves to strike when a player like this becomes available. Now it is up to Red Sox general manager Ben Cherignton to do his due diligence and see if Abreu can become the player that could eventually anchor the lineup for years to come.