I don’t know how Jose Abreu’s long and unparalleled success in Cuban baseball will translate to Major League Baseball. I don’t know if he will join the lineage of Paul Konerko, Frank Thomas and so many other bat-first studs throughout White Sox history, or fall fairly flat, the way most of the team’s recent additions have done.
Either way, though, the news Thursday night of Chicago having signed Abreu for $68 million and six seasons is good news for White Sox fans. At the very least, it demonstrastes that the front office knows what the path forward from here looks like.
The White Sox had the worst offense in the American League in 2013, with a .240 True Average, per Baseball Prospectus. In fact, in the 60-plus years for which Prospectus has that statistic, only six teams have had lower TAv figures, and only two of those came in 162-game seasons. The Sox had the AL’s worst walk rate, and finished 13th of 15 in home runs, despite playing in homer-friendly U.S. Cellular Field. They didn’t do anything, at all, well.
Abreu addresses that. The amount they’re paying him (it nearly doubles what Yoenis Cespedes got at the same age when he defected prior to 2012) certainly bets on him bringing the majority of his offensive skills to bear against a higher level of competition, but whether he gets there or not, he adds something to that feeble lineup.
He’s also the right sort of signing for Chicago, in that despite presumed top-end talent, he didn’t cost them a draft pick. Any similar big-league signing would have cost them their second-round pick in 2014. Trading for a player like him would have meant further thinning an already too-thin farm system.
That’s the point. Abreu is a big bat, probably, but getting him doesn’t slow Chicago down as it goes about the business of rebuilding. The Sox are a bad team, even with Abreu. The last thing they needed to do was lunge after a big improvement that will not materialize in 2014, giving up long-term assets in the process. It’s excruciatingly difficult to project players who have never played American pro ball before. It’s easy, though, to call this a win for the Sox.
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