How Red Sox Can Get Superstar Slugger Without Risking $100M Megadeal

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterDecember 5, 2017

Jose Abreu would fit the Boston Red Sox like a glove.
Jose Abreu would fit the Boston Red Sox like a glove.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

At a time when the Boston Red Sox badly need a slugger, it's not encouraging that their options are dwindling.

According to Craig Mish of SiriusXM, the Red Sox are out of the running for Miami Marlins superstar Giancarlo Stanton. Dave Dombrowski, Boston's president of baseball operations, informed the media Sunday that the team is also out on two-way Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani.

On the bright side, the free-agent market has barely been touched yet. J.D. Martinez and Eric Hosmer are the biggest stars among the available hitters. Carlos Santana lurks as the best value buy.

On the less-bright side, Martinez and Hosmer are each going to command nine-figure contracts, and Santana is more of a good hitter than a great slugger.

The Red Sox thus have incentive to think outside the box, which is probably why they're considering a trade for Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu. As Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported:

Jon Heyman @JonHeyman

chisox have been in active talks with red sox and others on star 1B jose abreu. boston was 1 of 4 finalists for abreu when he signed with chicago (milwaukee & houston were the others).

Abreu fits the bill as the next player to go in Chicago's ongoing rebuild. He's expensive and is under club control for only two more seasons. He's also talented enough to command a good return in a trade.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, are a win-now team with an opening at first base and a humongous need for power following a year in which they finished last in the American League with 168 home runs. The 33 homers Abreu hit in 2017 would have easily cleared Mookie Betts' 24 dingers for the team lead.

That power surge was nothing new for the 30-year-old Cuba native. He's one of only eight active players to have topped 30 homers at least three times since 2014.

Before 2017, the red flag flying above Abreu's head was that his offense was on the way down following an explosive breakthrough in 2014. But in pairing an excellent .304/.354/.552 slash line with his 33 homers, he showed otherwise this past season.

The difference was an approach that featured a smaller rate of swings outside the strike zone. That didn't benefit Abreu's walk rate but did allow his hard-hit rate to soar to a height befitting of a guy with a massive 6'3", 255-pound frame:

Power of this magnitude is Abreu's main appeal to the Red Sox. But just as important as what he would bring to the team is what he wouldn't take away from it.

It's not by accident that the Red Sox finished sixth in the AL in runs despite ranking last in homers and only 11th in OPS. They couldn't take a big bite out of pitchers but could peck away due to their top-to-bottom penchant for refusing to give away easy outs. To wit, the Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros were the only AL clubs with lower strikeout rates than Boston.

That's another area where Abreu is trending in the right direction.

He got down to a 17.6 K% in 2017, well below the league average of 21.6 percent. It also tied him with George Springer for the seventh-lowest strikeout rate among the league's 41 sluggers of 30 or more homers.

Joey Votto3611.7
Francisco Lindor3312.9
Anthony Rizzo3213.0
Nolan Arenado3715.6
Mike Moustakas3815.7
Manny Machado3316.7
George Springer3417.6
Jose Abreu3317.6
Mike Trout3317.8
Charlie Blackmon3718.6

Of course, the White Sox aren't simply going to give Abreu to the Red Sox.

They have an exciting future precisely because general manager Rick Hahn hasn't settled in high-profile trades of Chris Sale, Adam Eaton, Jose Quintana and a three-player package of Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle. He doesn't mean to settle for Abreu either. According to ESPN.com's Scott Lauber, one rival evaluator set his price at "an arm and both legs."

However, there is hope that Hahn could be talked down from there.

Jose Abreu's trade value is high but not exorbitant.
Jose Abreu's trade value is high but not exorbitant.Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

Per MLB Trade Rumors, Abreu is projected to earn $17.9 million via arbitration in 2018. That's a hefty raise on the $10.825 million he earned in 2017. Assume another raise in 2019, his final year before free agency, and his two-year cost should be in the realm of $40 million.

Abreu is awfully good, but probably not good enough to drastically outperform earnings like those. He thus has less trade value than Sale, Eaton and Quintana, whose combination of talent and cheap long-term control made them each worth several top prospects.

This is the point where Jackie Bradley Jr.'s name usually comes up, but the White Sox can and should do better than an inconsistent 27-year-old who's only three years from free agency.

How about Michael Chavis instead?

The 22-year-old third baseman is a former first-round pick who rekindled his stock with a 31-homer season at High-A and Double-A in 2017. He's a top-100 prospect for Baseball America (No. 96), MLB.com (No. 92) and us right here at Bleacher Report (No. 96). Even if those specific numbers don't qualify him as good enough for a straight-up-swap, they're good enough for him to be a centerpiece of a bigger deal.

A trade of Chavis would take away yet another top prospect from a Red Sox system that's lost quite a few since Dombrowski arrived in 2015. However, Chavis is blocked by Rafael Devers at third base anyway. The White Sox, who have a long-term opening at the hot corner, need him more.

Ultimately, the ball is in the White Sox's court. They have no need to rush a trade of Abreu and also have enough cash to keep paying him in the meantime. They can wait as long as they like for a suitable trade offer.

Nobody matches up with them like the Red Sox, however. And since the Red Sox indeed have other options, it wouldn't be the worst thing for the White Sox to deal sooner rather than later.


Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.

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