White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu has opted out of the remaining three years and $34MM on his guaranteed contract and will enter arbitration for his remaining three years of club control, reports Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago (via Twitter). Abreu originally signed a six-year, $68MM contract with the ChiSox, but that contract allowed him to enter the arbitration process whenever he was deemed eligible. With three years of big league service time now under his belt, this offseason marks the earliest juncture at which he’d have been able to do so.
Abreu earned $10MM this past season under the guaranteed phase of his six-year deal and would’ve earned $10.5MM in 2017, $11.5MM in 2018 and $12MM in 2019 had he not opted out. However, as MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently explored, the arbitration process figures to be more lucrative for the Cuban-born slugger. Arbitration raises are based on previous salaries, but Abreu’s $10MM 2016 salary isn’t technically the figure from which he’ll receive a raise, as with contracts such as the one on which Abreu currently plays, the signing bonus must be annualized and factored in as well. Abreu’s deal contained a $10MM signing bonus, so adding one sixth of that sum ($1.66MM) to last year’s salary gives him an arbitration base of toughly $11.66MM. (Abreu’s agents could try to argue that the bonus should be pro-rated over three years, as he’s opting out of three guaranteed years, but it’s unclear if they’d be successful in that endeavor; at the very least $11.66MM is the floor on which his raise will be determined.)
As Tim also noted in that exploration of Abreu’s unique contract situation, though, Abreu also can’t be given a standard raise on top of that base. Abreu’s numbers to date compare favorably to Giancarlo Stanton’s first three years, but Stanton earned $6.5MM in his first trip through arbitration. Abreu is already north of that and wouldn’t be boosted an additional $6.5MM on top of his current salary, but he also isn’t in line for a cut to that mark either. More realistically, he’ll gain some form of token raise atop his “on-paper” salary of $11.66MM, which prompted Tim to project a $12MM salary for him in the event of opting into arbitration. (For further explanation on the fine details of Abreu’s case, I’d recommend checking out Tim’s piece in its entirety, as it does a fine job highlighting the complexities associated with this type of Major League contract.)
Abreu, 30 in January, hit .293/.353/.468 this season and swatted 25 homers. His offense has taken a step back in each of his seasons since his brilliant Rookie of the Year campaign in 2014, but he remains a considerably above average bat and should do well from this point forth in arbitration, as whatever price the Sox and Abreu’s camp determine this winter will be the baseline for his second trip through arbitration. Of course, it’s also not entirely certain that Abreu will even remain with the White Sox long term. While GM Rick Hahn hasn’t outright said that he’s planning to orchestrate a fire sale, the South Siders do seem more apt than ever to listen to trade pitches on their top veteran players, and Abreu certainly fits that bill. Hahn spoke earlier this winter of “focusing on longer-term benefits,” and interested parties could subsequently make the Sox strong offers for stars such as Abreu, Chris Sale and/or Jose Quintana. Conversely, the Sox could simply be opportunistic in listening to offers on shorter-term commodities like Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera, though certainly neither veteran comes with the type of value that Chicago’s more controllable assets carry.