The Chicago White Sox have agreed to terms on a six-year, $68-million contract with free agent first baseman Jose Abreu.
Under terms of the deal, Abreu will receive a $10-million signing bonus and be paid $7 million in 2014 and 2015, $10 million in 2016, $10.5 million in 2017, $11.5 million in 2018 and $12 million in 2019.
“We are very excited to add a talent like Jose to our roster for the next several years,” said Rick Hahn, White Sox senior vice president/general manager. “His skill set should translate very well to our ballpark, and we expect him to be a part of successful White Sox teams throughout his time in Chicago.”
Hahn also talked about what this move meant for the club's offseason, and importantly, star player Paul Konerko (via Scott Merkin of MLB.com and Bruce Levine of ESPN):
Hahn: "This signing does not preclude us from bringing Paul back."— Scott Merkin (@scottmerkin) October 29, 2013
Hahn says more bold moves ahead.— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) October 29, 2013
MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez was first to break the news:
As alluded to, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported earlier Thursday:
Jose Abreu finalizing terms on six-year, $68M deal. Club expected to be #WhiteSox. Deal will be largest first-time contract for int’l player— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) October 18, 2013
Rosenthal also reported that the bidding got intense for the talented hitter:
Sources: Bidding for Abreu was close and furious. Four clubs bid between $63 and $66M. #WhiteSox’s winning bid was $68M.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) October 18, 2013
Enrique Rojas of ESPN tweeted this photo of Abreu:
Back in September, Sanchez reported that the most recent Cuban defector was officially declared a free agent for all Major League Baseball clubs.
Source: #Cuba prospect Jose Abreu declared a free agent & cleared to sign with a team. Giants among clubs taking a long look at the slugger.— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) September 28, 2013
After the recent successes of Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes, it was no surprise that a massive bidding war broke out for the services of the 26-year-old slugger.
In September, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick spoke with a National League scout, who provided a brief synopsis on Abreu's skill set:
If you throw him 90-92 [mph] inside, he gets beat a lot. I don't think he's going to hit a good hard fastball in. But there's a lot of marginal pitching out there. The No. 1 and 2 starters are going to get him out, but he's going to feast on the 3, 4 and 5 guys. That's where he's going to make his money.
His swing is thick and sort of stiff. His front arm gets kind of rigid, and it's more a strength swing than a real quick bat. But he's a smart hitter, and he's not just up there swinging out of his butt. He's crafty. I think he'll make the adjustments.
According to Baseball-Reference.com, Abreu hit .382 with 13 home runs and 36 runs batted in during an abbreviated 2012-13 Serie Nacional season in Cuba. At the 2013 World Baseball Classic, he finished in a tie for home runs (three), second in RBI (nine) and tied for second in total bases (19).
He seems to be the prototypical power-hitting first baseman. While he doesn't offer much on defense, he'll more than make up for it with his offense. That's exactly what teams are looking for in the corner infield. Miguel Cabrera is one player who has proven that you don't have to be a wizard with the glove to warrant a spot at one of the corner infield spots.
Will Jose Abreu be a success in MLB?
If initial reports are correct, Abreu's contract is a sizable boost from his recent Cuban predecessors. In 2012, the Oakland A's signed Cespedes to a four-year, $36 million deal, Puig got seven years and $42 million from the Los Angeles Dodgers, and even Jorge Soler (considered a level below Puig and Cespedes) signed a nine-year, $30 million deal with the Chicago Cubs.
Of course, there's no guarantee that Abreu will take to the majors as Puig and Cespedes have. As fans have previously seen (notably with Japanese imports), there are bound to be a few busts when it comes to international stars. For every Ichiro Suzuki or Hideki Matsui, there's a Kaz Matsui or Hideki Irabu.
The White Sox will hope Abreu is more like the former.