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White Sox Sign Jose Abreu: Donkey Kong Part II

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Twins Fans,

It was just announced yesterday 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.

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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 who when the Fall air of Free Agency comes in.

The New York Yankees have $22.25M coming off the books alone at 1B/DH (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 2004. A-Rod suspension pending could add even more to the pot.

The Boston Red Sox, never a stranger to spend, also have a possibly $13M in free money available in that Mike Napoliís contract expires at year 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 team doesnít exercise Ztioís 2014 option). Even if they were to resign 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 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 last in 'High-A' last year for the Ft. Myers Miracle.

The next best option to compare is to look at 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.

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Joe Abreu in his 25 at-bats at the WBC Abreu did not walk even once. The rest of the league walked 10.8%. 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 while 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.)

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Can Abreu be something more than Adam Dunn part II? Sure. So 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.

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In fact, this is where Twins fans should start to smile. Because in the very same World Baseball Classic that Jose Abreu participated in one Chris Colabello hit just as good. 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.

Updated 10-19-2013 at 10:17 AM by twinsfan34

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Comments

  1. The Wise One's Avatar
    In Abreu's defense
    Small sample size
    Upside?
    Yippee, I won the lottery.
    It took a year for the teams to learn Cespedes's tendencies and how to attack the weak points. Abreu should be able to kill mistake pitches and thus continue to make a living.
  2. twinsfan34's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by The Wise One
    In Abreu's defense
    Small sample size
    Upside?
    Yippee, I won the lottery.
    It took a year for the teams to learn Cespedes's tendencies and how to attack the weak points. Abreu should be able to kill mistake pitches and thus continue to make a living.
    Yeah. I think you're right. Who ultimately knows how 'good' (or bad) he ends up being. In Cuba he played in the equivalent of Low-A ball competition. But he did kill it there.

    Great point on Cespedes. He did pretty well his first year. But hit, what .240 in his 2nd year?

    I could see Abreu hitting 28-35 HRs and hitting around .240-.275 with 150-180 Ks.

    Which, I think Miguel Sano could do exactly that next year as well assuming he was the Twins' opening day starting 3B.
  3. twinsfan34's Avatar
    Question:

    Which would have given most of the Twins fans on here the bigger jolt. The signing of Abreu or Mike Napoli?
  4. Willihammer's Avatar
    In a bigger sample of Serie Nacional games, Abreu compares favorably to some of the best players of this decade. For example, Puig posted a .330/.431/.581 line, to Cespedes' .333/.424/.667, to Abreu's .453/.597/.986 in 2009-2010 (the last year they all played together). That's better than a .400 lead in OPS over Cespedes, for anyone counting at home. Note: Cespedes and Abreu held or shared the lead in nearly every major hitting category that year.

    And Abreu hasn't let off the gas since. This guy just mashes.
  5. The Wise One's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer
    In a bigger sample of Serie Nacional games, Abreu compares favorably to some of the best players of this decade. For example, Puig posted a .330/.431/.581 line, to Cespedes' .333/.424/.667, to Abreu's .453/.597/.986 in 2009-2010 (the last year they all played together). That's better than a .400 lead in OPS over Cespedes, for anyone counting at home. Note: Cespedes and Abreu held or shared the lead in nearly every major hitting category that year.

    And Abreu hasn't let off the gas since. This guy just mashes.
    That assumes that Cespedes and Abreu have the same swing. By any reports I can find they don't.
    Low level competition numbers do not translate to a major league level.
    You have to look at mechanics. Most reports say he doesn't have a fast bat. In an era where most teams are getting faster pitchers that does not bode well for him. He will get his hits off the inferior pitchers.
    The comparable could be his teammate and countryman Viceido with probably a lower BA. 20 homers with a .250 average. As a DH/1B that would be about a 1.5 WAR.
  6. twinsfan34's Avatar
    Jerry Crasnick of ESPN has a great feature article on Jose Abreu.

    Seems like most comparisons go along the lines of Viciedo and Morales. Maybe hits more power than Morales, but not as good of a bat.

    His walks rates are inflated quite a bit. He didn't walk once in the World Baseball Clinic.

    Also, his walk totals are very much inflated by his high IBB totals. This from a Grantland article.

    "His stats have been inflated somewhat by intentional walks (a league-leading 32 in 2009-10, and 21 last season) and hit-by-pitches (30 in 2009-10, 21 last season, though Abreu might have an easier time sustaining high HBP numbers than league-leading intentional walk totals in the majors). Even Abreu's hit tool, while playable, might not be superstar-level."
  7. Willihammer's Avatar
    I wouldn't get hung up on his walk rate at the WBC or anywhere really. His game is power and to that end his ISO has floated around .400 which is insane.

    If Cuba's league is comparable to High A, a .400 ISO would be .080 points better than Giancarlo Stanton or Miguel Sano - and Sano's ~.320 ISO is the best for a season in High A since fangraphs started tracking minor leaguers in 2006.

    Re: bat speed -its one part of the equation but not the be all end all. Just look at the various bat speeds from 2013: ESPN Home Run Tracker :: 92013 Top Home Runs, Speed Off Bat - Full List. There are good hitters all over that spectrum.

    Force is a product of velocity and mass. Maybe Abreu is swinging a 40 ounce bat in Cuba?
    Updated 10-21-2013 at 03:13 PM by Willihammer
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