Bidding on Cuba defector Jose Abreu is expected to be for a $70 million deal, sources say. White Sox,Astros, Rangers viewed as frontrunners.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) October 16, 2013
That was Buster Olney, about an hour ago. Now, of course last week when I was trying to figure out how the Astros would increase their payroll, I floated the possibility of signing Abreu...and then promptly dismissed it out of hand. The Astros apparently aren't of the same opinion that this team isn't big enough for both Jon Singleton and Jose Abreu.
The teams connected - through media reports - to Abreu include:
Texas, Boston, San Francisco, Baltimore, New York Mets, Miami, Pittsburgh, Chicago White Sox
Those teams have been on the list all summer, so it's quite surprising to see the Astros not just on the list, but as a front-runner. Of course, the Astros do - theoretically - have the financial flexibility to make a deal of this magnitude. So now I guess it's time to learn a little more about the 6'3" 250lb righty 26-year old Cuban defector.
In Jerry Crasnick's September 17 piece on Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes said that Abreu reminds him of Miguel Cabrera, and that "if he had a tad more speed, he would be a complete player." Multiple scouts say Abreu's raw power compares with Yasiel Puig, Cespedes, and Dayan Viciedo. One of Crasnick's talent evaluators said that he could start in a Major League lineup and could hit .260 with 25 homers. He's apparently going to be vulnerable to inside fastballs, and "most scouts" say he'll be a decent defensive first baseman, and "it's a stretch to think he can make the switch to third base or a corner outfield spot." Notice the above list: a lot of AL teams, so the Astros - if they pull this off - could still have Singleton at 1B and Abreu at DH.
MLBTR's Tim Dierkes profiled Abreu yesterday, and confirmed that Abreu's calling card is power and makes the point that I neglected to make in last week's piece: signing Abreu, unlike signing Nelson Cruz, Shin-Soo Choo, etc., will not require sacrificing a 2014 draft pick. Dierkes also imagines a 6yr/$54m deal is "the best bet," so Olney's report would increase that prediction significantly.
In Jonah Keri's February 2012 profile on Abreu, entitled "The Best Hitter You've Never Heard Of," Baseball Prospectus co-founder Clay Davenport said, "I don't know that I'd name him 'the best hitter in the world' based on a 60-game performance...But yes, I'd say there's a chance." Oakland's assistant GM said that "there are legitimate comparisons to Ryan Howard."
Ben Badler wrote of Abreu:
Abreu is an intelligent hitter without a lot of effort in in his swing and the power to hit 30-plus homers in a season. He has an unorthodox setup with a double toe tap in his stride, and some scouts consider his bat speed only fair, which they believe makes it hard for him to catch up to good velocity on the inner third of the plate.
So, what to make of it? If the Astros do sign Abreu, they're getting the possibility of a massive power bat in the middle of the lineup and someone who can split time at 1B/DH with Jon Singleton. The money is there - given the players the Astros currently have on the roster, payroll would be around $22m. They could give Abreu a 6yr/$72m contract, and payroll would still be under $40m. Given that he wouldn't cost the Astros a draft pick (their #1 overall pick in 2014 is protected, of course), this has far more potential and possibility than I gave the Astros credit for.