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Cubs free-agent target: José Abreu

Okay, let’s talk about this.

Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

We’re not quite into MLB free-agent season yet, but the rumor that the Cubs are interested in White Sox first baseman José Abreu are out there, so I thought I’d delve into this a bit.

Here’s where this has been reported:

Abreu sat out the final White Sox game of 2022. Why?

That doesn’t sound like a guy who is planning on returning to the White Sox, who need some re-tooling after a disappointing .500 season in 2022.

Abreu has been the face of the White Sox franchise for the last nine years, ever since coming out of Cuba to sign a six-year, $68 million deal with them prior to the 2014 season. He then signed a three-year, $50 million extension with the Sox prior to 2020.

His production has been very good to outstanding. He was named American League MVP in the abbreviated 2020 season, and I’m sure you remember his demolition of the Cubs that year, when he hit .375/.464/1.167 (9-for-24) against them with six home runs, all six homers coming in a three-game series at Wrigley Field in August. (The Sox only won two of the three games, as Abreu’s solo homer was their only run in a 2-1 Cubs win August 23.)

I’ve been hesitant about the idea of Abreu signing with the Cubs because his power numbers were down in 2022, his slugging percentage dropping to a career-low .446. (Don’t get me wrong, that SLG is still good!) There have been hints that Sox batting coach Frank Menechino’s emphasis on contact might be partly responsible for the Sox power drop this year — they dropped from 190 homers in 2021 to 149, which ranked tied for 23rd in MLB. (Comparison point: The somewhat power-challenged Cubs hit 159 home runs this year and ranked 18th.)

Beyond that, Abreu turns 36 in January. At that age, it’s possible his performance could begin to decline. Is that a risk Jed Hoyer & Co. want to take?

Further, it would appear likely that the Cubs do want to give Matt Mervis every chance to win the first base job for 2023. Would the presence of Abreu take some of that away from Mervis? Or would the Cubs be signing Abreu primarily as a DH? Abreu played 128 games at first base in 2022 and started 29 as DH, but at that age, perhaps being more of a fulltime DH would be better for him, with occasionally playing first base against LHP for Mervis. In that case the Cubs could non-tender Franmil Reyes, who would likely get about $6 million in arbitration for 2023.

One thing the Cubs would get with Abreu is strong veteran leadership; he’s extremely well-respected as a great clubhouse guy and mentor. Those things do have value, especially with the Cubs getting ready to graduate some players from the system. Abreu also has some star power, a fairly big name, and yes, that likely matters to the Cubs, who are trying to sell more tickets.

A signing of Abreu most likely means a farewell to Willson Contreras. If Abreu is going to take a lot of DH at-bats, that would leave less room for Willson in the lineup.

While writing this essay I’ve been trying to talk myself into a signing of Abreu, but I’m not quite there. I certainly wouldn’t want the Cubs to pay him anywhere near the $19 million he got in 2022 and I’m not sure I’d be willing to commit more than a year, maybe two at most.

Would a one-year deal for $14 million do it? Or one year with a vesting option (for games played or plate appearances), also $14 million, for 2023 with a $6 million buyout (essentially making it 2/20)? Is that too much? Or do you think it’s not enough?

One note: Abreu has previously received a qualifying offer, so he’s not eligible for another one. Thus the Cubs would owe no draft-pick compensation if they sign him.

There’s enough information for you to decide, I think. Oh, one last thing. José Abreu signing with the Cubs would assuredly make White Sox fans’ heads explode.


José Abreu...

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    The Cubs should sign him for a deal similar to the one in the article
    (166 votes)
  • 14%
    The Cubs should sign him, but should pay less than the deal in the article
    (88 votes)
  • 16%
    The Cubs should sign him, but it will cost more than the deal in the article
    (101 votes)
  • 40%
    The Cubs should not sign him
    (244 votes)
  • 1%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (7 votes)
606 votes total Vote Now