It was announced on Friday that the Chicago White Sox signed Jose Abreu to a 6 year $68 million dollar deal
Letís not get our undies in a bunch over the Chicago White Sox signing of Adam Dunn, Part II. First a little on our midwest American League Central neighbors. Lest we forget, this is the same
White Sox management that signed Adam Dunn
to a 4yr/$56M deal.
Adam Dunn. Jose Abreu. Well, that's another "donkey" in the stable in Chi-town. So letís look elsewhere to consider if this is a worthy investment. Letís look at the teams who throw money to the wind when the air of free agency comes in.
The New York Yankees
have $22.25M coming off the books at 1B/DH alone (Lyle Overbay, Travis Hafner, Mark Reynolds, Kevin Youkilis). Add another $15M if you count Curtis Granderson and 33% timeshare of his playing time at DH. Then factor in the retiring Andy Pettiteís $13M. The Yankees, believe it or not, have money to spend for 2014. Thatís just over $50M cool annually starting in 2014. A-Rod's pending suspension could add even more to the pot.
The Boston Red Sox
, never a stranger to spend, also have a possible $13M in free money available in that Mike Napoliís contract expires at year's end. You would think for $2M less theyíd take a gander at Abreu, unless they think he couldnít at least duplicate Napoliís stat line of .259 AVG 23 HR 92 RBI in 498 at-bats.
The Texas Rangers
are not likely to bring back Lance Berkman and thus his $11M would be free to spend on Abreu. Wouldnít Texas be a little more appealing to Abreu? A perennial contender to advance to the World Series, strong Spanish speaking leadership (Adrian Beltre et al), closer to Cuba, warmer weather, etc. But, they passed on him.
A few other big money spenders include the New York Mets
and the San Francisco Giants
. The Mets have $25.5M coming off the books in Johan Santana. The Giants meanwhile have $35.2M coming off the books in Tim Lincecum & Barry Zito (possibly another $7M if the team doesnít exercise Ztioís 2014 option). Even if they were to re-sign those players at half their previous salary that would leave over $20M per season to lure Abreu to the Bay area.
So letís consider the numbers. Unfortunately we donít really have a full idea of how the Cuban leagues stack up against MLB. For perspective, most of the pitchers in Cuba throw between 80-85 mph, which is about the average speed of most high school starting pitchers. In the Cuban National Series (their baseball league) they had only two pitchers with a K/9 ratio over 7 (Alain Tamayo and Ismel Jimenez). Twins fans are very familiar with "pitch to contact" and that's exactly the type of league Abreu played in while in Cuba. Clay Davenport, founder of the Baseball Prospectus, and renown baseball sabermetrician, likens the ďCuban Serie NacionalĒ unto 'Low-A' ball
competition. Byron Buxton finished in 'High-A' last year for the Ft. Myers Miracle.
The next best option for comparison is this springís 2013 World Baseball Classic. Abreu did manage to hit .360 (9-for-25) with three home runs and nine RBIs. Those sound like decent numbers, until you compare them to the average performer at the WBC. The batting average of qualified players
in the WBC was .374. That is, the average player hit .374 (368 for 984). The average player was .014 better
than Abreu. Justin Morneau hit .636 (7 for 11) at the Classic. Michael Saunders hit .727 (8 for 11). Sure you can find other big leaguers who did better or worse than Abreu in the Classic. The batting average is something scouts can overlook as it's reasonable to expect a poor five game stretch. A better indicator for scouts than batting average is often a player's plate discipline and strikeout ratio.
Jose Abreu in his 25 at-bats at the WBC did not walk even once. The rest of the league walked at a 10.8% rate. How about strikeout%? Other WBC hitters struck out an average of 13.9% of the time. Abreu? He struck out 20% of the time. He struck out 20% of the time despite not facing a single MLB pitcher during the tournament. (For those of you keeping track at home, Abreu whiffed in his only AB
against Masarhio Tanaka
. But then again, all six outs Tanaka recorded against the Cuban team were strikeouts.)
Can Abreu be something more than Adam Dunn, Part II? Sure. So, even if he does end up producing better than Adam Dunn, those Twins fans pining for higher SO/9 from Twins pitchers can celebrate the 20 games of the year they will be pitching to Abreu, who is sure to strike out more than 20% of the time against 'real' MLB pitchers.
I don't think Twins fans should be sad to see them pass on Abreu. In fact, this is where Twins fans should start to smile. Because in that very same World Baseball Classic, one Chris Colabello
hit just as well. But Colabello did it against actual
MLB pitching, including HRs off Edinson Volquez
and Scott Mathieson
to boot! And Colabello is not a liability in the field like Abreu.
Also, as if this deal could not get any sweeter, we got Colabello under contract for $500k a year!
Go ahead Twins fans, feel free to pinch yourself now.