The Red Sox are among the organizations “in active talks” with the White Sox regarding veteran slugger Jose Abreu, according to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). It is not clear at the moment which other teams might be involved or how far talks might have progressed.
MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk recently examined the potential market for Abreu, citing Boston as one of the major possible suitors. Of course, there are also quite a few other organizations that would likely see merit in his contract rights, too.
Unlike top trade candidate Giancarlo Stanton and the slate of available free agents, Abreu can be controlled for a limited financial commitment. MLBTR projects that he’ll earn $17.9MM in arbitration for the coming season, a large sum but also less than what other top sluggers would command on the open market. And there’s another season of control that amounts to a floating club option; should he perform well, Abreu will be entitled to (and will likely deserve) another big raise in his final year of arbitration eligibility. If not, he can be allowed to walk.
In all likelihood, it’s something like a two-year, $40MM contract commitment without any possibility of a long-term commitment gumming up future balance sheets. That’s an appealing contract situation for a player that just smacked 33 long balls and slashed .304/.354/.552 in the 2017 campaign. Abreu will not turn 31 until January of next year.
While Abreu wouldn’t necessarily earn significantly more in average annual salary in a hypothetical trip onto the open market this winter, he’d surely command more years. There’s a world of difference between a four or five-year guarantee at this general rate of pay, for instance, and the current commitment to Abreu. To take but one comparison, he’s effectively controlled under a more team-friendly scenario than that which the Blue Jays agreed to with Jose Bautista last January, after the much older player languished on the market and fell shy of earning expectations on the heels of a down season. That contract guaranteed $18.5MM and included only a mutual option, whereas Abreu’s 2019 rights are firmly in club control.
There’s a fair bit of excess value here for the White Sox, who also won’t feel compelled to move Abreu for less than a compelling return. Putting Abreu in crimson hosiery will likely not be cheap, then. Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has suggested his organization is hesitant to part with significant prospect value to land a slugger, so getting something done here will likely require some creativity and/or tough choices.