The White Sox aren’t planning to offer pending free-agent first baseman/designated hitter Jose Abreu a contract extension this season, Bruce Levine of 670 The Score reports. However, the club and Abreu have long been open about their desire to stay together past this year, so it’s possible an agreement will occur over the winter.
Abreu is on the verge of wrapping up the six-year, $68MM contract he signed out of Cuba in October 2013. Believe it or not, that still ranks as the richest deal the White Sox have ever distributed. Abreu, now 32 years old, has more than lived up to the pact. He owns a .290/.346/.510 major league batting line with 168 home runs and 19.4 bWAR/16.3 fWAR across 3,660 plate appearances. Not only has Abreu’s aggregate production been tremendous, but he has emerged as a revered clubhouse presence during his five-plus seasons on the South Side of Chicago.
General manager Rick Hahn acknowledged Abreu’s behind-the-scenes importance last month, saying, “It’s sort of that more touchy-feely, emotional side of things in terms of knowing the value that he has in this clubhouse and the leadership skills, the softer benefits that he brings to the club, that affects your valuation of a guy like that.”
Of course, the fact that the White Sox hold Abreu the person in high esteem doesn’t guarantee they’ll keep the player. The club has been amid a rebuild for a large portion of Abreu’s tenure, but if it wants to make a legitimate run at contending in 2020, it could try to upgrade over him. His lifetime 130 wRC+ suggests doing so would be difficult, though Abreu’s output has been declining since 2018. His wRC+ through 451 PA this season sits at a career-worst 98, which has only outdone three qualified first basemen (possible Hall of Famers Joey Votto, Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera, mind you).
Although Abreu has continued to hit for power (22 homers, .209 ISO), his perennially meager walk rate has fallen to a personal-low 4.4 percent. Abreu has struck out in nearly 24 percent of plate appearances at the same time, helping leave him with a less-than-stellar .261/.297/.469 slash.
On the other side of the coin, Abreu has been a Statcast darling this year. His .351 expected weighted on-base average crushes his real wOBA of .322 and ranks in the majors’ 71st percentile. He also sits in the league’s 70th percentile or better in expected batting average, expected slugging percentage, average exit velocity and hard-hit rate.
Unless Abreu’s actual production starts trending toward his Statcast figures over the next two months, it seems highly doubtful the three-time All-Star will match or exceed his current $16MM salary in 2020. As things stand, he doesn’t look like a great candidate for a qualifying offer, which was valued at a pricey $17.9MM last offseason.