Monday, August 12, 2013
Who will land Jose Abreu?
By Jim Bowden
Jose Abreu is sure to spice up what most thought would be a dull free-agent class.
Over the past few years we've seen a trio of Cuban defectors receive big free-agent contracts and subsequently take the league by storm. Aroldis Chapman, Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig all came to the majors with a lot of hype, and thus far all have delivered on it.
Enter Jose Dariel Abreu. According to reports, the 26-year-old Cuban slugger has defected. He is reportedly in Haiti now, and he could be up for bidding right around the time free agency gets going in November. Expect a bidding war.
Abreu is considered one of the best hitting prospects in the world, and last season he led Cuba's Serie Nacional in batting average and home runs. Although he will be limited to first base or designated hitter, his offensive skills will make him an All-Star. I spoke to a few execs and scouts who have seen him play, and here is how his tools grade out on the 20-80 scouting scale.
Because he's older than 23, Abreu will not be subject to MLB's spending restrictions for international free agents, and because of the success of Puig, Cespedes and Chapman, I expect him to get a deal somewhere in the range of $54 million over six years, which would exceed Puig’s seven-year, $42 million contract.
Abreu will also be helped by the fact this is a lackluster free-agent class. Robinson Cano and Jacoby Ellsbury will be the two biggest names out there, but there is not a true power hitter to speak of.
Based on what I've heard from around the league, here's an early guess at the teams who are most likely to sign Abreu, ranked in order of likelihood.
Miami Marlins: After finishing second to the A’s on Cespedes, the Marlins are expected to go all out on Abreu, understanding they would really have to overpay to get him to Miami. With a young, strong nucleus in place, led by Jose Fernandez, Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich -- not to mention a strong Cuban population -- this would be the perfect fit for Abreu. It would also give Miami ownership a legitimate chance to start winning back the fan base.
Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox have been looking for a long-term solution at first base since they traded Adrian Gonzalez to the Dodgers last August. They also need to prepare for life after David Ortiz, and with room to spend the Red Sox could be the most logical big-market club to land him considering the Dodgers have Gonzalez, the Yankees have Mark Teixeira and the Angels have Albert Pujols.
Texas Rangers: After losing Josh Hamilton as a free agent last winter and with Nelson Cruz's recent suspension clouding his future with the club, the Rangers could use a power bat. They may decide to spend their money on Abreu, who has a lot more offensive production talent than Mitch Moreland.
Seattle Mariners: General manager Jack Zduriencik has been trying hard to land a big-name bat the past few years, failing in many attempts for players such as Justin Upton and Josh Hamilton. Abreu would be the perfect long-term fit for the Mariners and finally give them the cleanup hitter they've been looking for. Even if you believe Justin Smoak's resurgence is real, one of them could DH.
Oakland Athletics: GM Billy Beane has been very aggressive with non-traditional free agents the past few years, surprising many by signing the likes of Michael Ynoa, Cespedes and Hiroyuki Nakajima. And as long as Beane doesn’t have to give him a no-trade clause he’d love to put Abreu next to Cespedes in the A’s lineup. The A’s have been scouting Abreu heavily over the past four years and they think he has more offensive potential than Cespedes, who could be a key player in recruiting Abreu.
Washington Nationals: Never bet against Nationals owner Ted Lerner when it comes to an opportunity to get to a World Series. A Nationals team that couldn’t produce offense in 2013 would love to add another impact bat to put between Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman. Adam LaRoche is only signed through 2014 and his deal wouldn't be hard to move if they signed Abreu. Signing him would be a game-changer for the Nats.
Colorado Rockies: With Todd Helton's career coming to an end, the Rockies would love to be able to replace him with Abreu and insert him between Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez in their lineup at Coors Field. The Rockies have been real quiet the past few years, which makes them prime to be a surprise player on Abreu.