The White Sox avoided arbitration with slugging first baseman Jose Abreu today, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $13MM (as first tweeted by FanRag’s Robert Murray). Obviously, Abreu’s contract lands well shy of the hefty $17.9MM projection generated by the arbitration projection model of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz, as well as the $17MM figure that Swartz referenced in a more in-depth breakdown of Abreu’s arbitration case.
Abreu has been a thorn in the side of MLBTR’s projection model for two years now, as the unique nature of his contract does not appear to be properly contextualized by the algorithm driving our model. Abreu originally agreed to a six-year, $68MM contract with the White Sox four years ago, but that deal allowed him the right to opt into arbitration once he was eligible. Abreu exercised that right last offseason, and we explored some of the intricacies of that decision at the time. Notably, the CBA offered little clarity in terms of how Abreu’s annualized signing bonus should be treated within the confines of the arbitration system.
Speculatively speaking, that could once again be the case in 2018, as it’s surprising that Abreu would receive a raise just north of $2MM after a season in which he posted a terrific .304/.354/.552 batting line, 33 homers and 102 RBIs over the life of 675 plate appearances. It should be noted that even with a relatively modest raise, Abreu is coming out ahead of the figures he’d have earned had remained on his guaranteed salaries rather than opting for arbitration. Abreu would’ve earned $10.5MM in 2017, $11.5MM in 2018 and $12MM in 2019, so he clearly made the proper decision when opting into arbitration, even if the system treats him as an atypical case.
Whatever the reason, the $13MM salary represents one of the more substantial misses our projection model has ever forecast. As for the Sox, they’ll once again enjoy the presence of one of the American League’s top hitters in the middle of their order as well as a respected and highly valued presence in their clubhouse. Abreu’s name has been oft-mentioned in trade rumors, though the ChiSox are reportedly loath to move him. He’s controlled for another two seasons.