Scouting Report: Jose Abreu

Kiley shares a scouting report on new White Sox 1B Jose Abreu, along with thoughts on the value Chicago got with the recently-signed 6-year deal for $68 million.

I'm a little lower on Cuban defector and new White Sox 1B Jose Abreu than the team that signed him, but that's how things work with free agency. Abreu was the last unsigned international player cut from my mid-season top 50 prospects list as the scouts I talked to about him said they saw more Kendrys Morales than Prince Fielder and even the White Sox winning bid concedes that.

Paying Abreu just over $11 million per year with the going rate for dollars per win around $5-6 million is expecting a solid average regular at roughly two wins per year. Abreu is a high variance free agent despite his sterling track record since he's an all bat guy value-wise with very little track record against MLB pitching--World Baseball Classic is the only example aside from a few matchups with superstar prospects at home and abroad. He's got a good shot to end up a fringy regular or platoon guy as a standout hitter or All-Star, so the price isn't unreasonable from that angle, but the length of the deal increases the risk for a club that may not be ready to contend in the first three years of the deal when Abreu could out-produce his salary.

Abreu will be 27 on Opening Day, normally the prime for a big leaguer, but that career trajectory is shifted for players of Abreu's size and position. The back end of the deal when Abreu will be in his 30's should be a net negative that he has to make up for in the first half of the deal.

While Abreu's 6'2/260 frame doesn't look like the typical loose athlete that hits for power and average, he's proven over an extensive resume in Cuba's Serie Nacional and in international competition that he isn't just a hefty 4A slugger. Abreu has easy raw power that grades as a 70 for many scouts on the 20-80 scouting scale, which translates to 30 homers annually in the big leagues. He is a non-factor as a runner and defender, drawing attention from mostly AL teams with an open DH spot to hide him defensively. The concern is whether Abreu is a good enough hitter to get to his power in games and that's still an open question, as it is for every player at any level below the major leagues with even one possible red flag. The overwhelming majority of players that are Abreu's size aren't regulars in the big leagues, so the majority of scouts will be wary of his bat until he proves it, even though he's proven it at every level he's faced so far.

Implicit in my ranking of Abreu just outside the top 50 is that he was worth a 3-4 year deal worth about $8 million, which is roughly what my calculations have a prospect around 50th in baseball being worth on the open market (roughly $30 million). From talking to the clubs that didn't sign Abreu, this is roughly where they valued him and seems to be an agreed-upon median market value for the player.

As mentioned above, free agents and Cuban defectors specifically rarely sign for that median value as there's a big spread on individual team valuations of the player and recent examples like Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes have exceeded the hype after the industry felt they were overpaid. The White Sox could use another such pleasant surprise in their lineup, but they're going to need a few more this offseason to be a playoff threat before Abreu is past his peak.

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