Jose Abreu and the White Sox have been in talks about a long-term deal, and there’s still a chance such a pact could be reached before today’s 4pm CT qualifying offer deadline. As per 670 The Score’s Bruce Levine (Twitter link), Abreu is deciding between accepting the one-year, $17.8MM qualifying offer or inking a new three-year contract with Chicago.
Abreu has made no secret of his desire to remain with the White Sox, and there has also been quite a bit of mutual interest on the team’s side as well, with GM Rick Hahn often praising Abreu’s importance as a clubhouse leader, not to mention his strong performance on the field. That performance, however, has taken a step backwards in 2018-19 — Abreu hit .301/.359/.524 over his first four seasons in the big leagues, though only .275/.328/.490 in 1246 plate appearances over the last two seasons.
Between this semi-decline and the fact that Abreu turns 33 in January, a three-year pact would be quite a healthy amount of security, especially given the diminished state of the first base/DH market in recent years. Daniel Murphy’s two-year deal with the Rockies last winter was the only multi-year contract given to a player projected to spend a lot of time at first base (it should be noted that DJ LeMahieu ended up playing a lot of first base for the Yankees, though LeMahieu also only signed a two-year deal). In fact, even a three-year commitment is a rarity no matter the position, as only 14 players total signed a free agent deal of three or more years last winter.
The Marlins are known to have interest in Abreu already, and other teams like the Brewers, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Nationals, or Twins could also be in need of first base help. But those clubs would all be required to surrender a draft pick (or two in Boston’s case, for surpassing the luxury tax threshold) and some international bonus pool money to sign Abreu if he turned down the qualifying offer and signed elsewhere. The QO could therefore potentially be a draft on his market, as it has been for such sluggers as Kendrys Morales and Nelson Cruz in recent years.
Of course, it’s safe to assume that Chicago’s three-year offer has an average annual value of much less than $17.8MM per year. Abreu could lock in a bigger single-season payday by accepting the qualifying offer now, and then he could potentially test free agency again next winter unencumbered since player are only eligible to receive one QO. Accepting the qualifying offer now also wouldn’t prevent Abreu and his representatives from continuing to negotiate with the White Sox on a longer-term deal throughout the offseason.