Abreu will not be moved, will he?

Longoria vs. Abreu

Abreu is the better player

I delved into a comparison recently between Marcell Ozuna and Jose Abreu to illustrate what the White Sox might receive in a trade should they decide to eventually move Abreu. Ozuna was recently dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals for four prospects, and Ozuna and Abreu had similarly outstanding seasons in 2017. Both of them are signed for two more years, and they will become free agents after the 2019 season.

Another big name MLB star was moved recently. Evan Longoria was traded to the San Francisco Giants for three prospects and outfielder Denard Span. Most certainly the impetus for the trade was the Tampa Rays wanting to rid themselves of Longoria’s contract, which guarantees him 86 million dollars through 2022. The Giants were in desperate need of another bat, and they apparently believe at least half a dozen players on their team will have rebound seasons in 2018. Why else would they add an apparently declining 32 year-old player to a team that lost 98 games in 2017?

The Longoria trade yielded these prospects for the Rays. Span was included to help defray the cost of acquiring Longoria, and he is most likely not in the Rays long term plans.

IF Christian Arroyo (MLB Pipeline Top 100 prospect, #57; Giants’ #1 prospect)

P Matt Krook (Giants’ #25 prospect)

P Stephen Woods (Giants’ #29 prospect)

The Giants have a weak farm system, so these rankings are a bit skewed. In September 2017, Bleacher Report ranked San Francisco’s system 26th of 30 major league teams. Neither Krook nor Woods is ranked in the Rays Top 30 prospects.

The headlining prospect was Arroyo, and he most likely would like to forget 2017. Due to two injuries, he collected 216 at bats at the Triple A and major league levels last year. With the Giants his line looked like this:

125 at bats, 3 home runs, 14 runs batted in, .192 batting average, .244 on base percentage, .304 slugging percentage. Not good.

So the casual fan might say, would the Sox receive a similarly meager return if they moved Abreu? Longoria is still a star, right? Well, let’s take inventory of the recent past.

Longoria’s past two seasons (age 30 and 31 seasons)

2016

36 home runs, 98 runs batted in, .273 batting average, .318 on base percentage, .521 slugging percentage

2017

20 home runs, 86 runs batted in, .261 batting average, .313 on base percentage, .424 slugging percentage

Abreu’s past two seasons (age 29 and 30 seasons)

2016

25 home runs, 100 runs batted in, .293 batting average, .353 on base percentage, .468 slugging percentage

2017

33 home runs, 102 runs batted in, .304 batting average, .354 on base percentage, .552 slugging percentage

Contracts

Longoria 5 years, 86 million dollars (with an team option for a 6th year)

Abreu 2 years, approximately 37 million dollars (determined in arbitration)

To the naked eye, Abreu is a more consistent hitter, and he gets on base more. In addition, it seems he is trending upward-his 2017 season eclipsing his 2016 season-while Longoria’s power numbers have regressed. Longoria is the better defender, while Abreu’s contract appears more palatable. For the Harvard and Yale statisticians and sabermetric groupies, Longoria’s last two wins above replacement numbers were 3.9 and 3.6, respectively. Abreu’s WAR numbers were 2.8 (defense factors into WAR) and 4.7, respectively.

It’s certainly arguable, but I believe Abreu is a much more dangerous hitter and a more desirable middle of the order bat for a contending team than Longoria.

Now, before I throw out another hypothetical trade, I must provide this disclaimer. Jose Abreu will not be moved prior to the end of the 2018 season. Carlos Santana just signed for three years and 60 million dollars with the Phillies (why would the Phillies make a ‘contending team’ move), Yonder Alonso just signed with the Cleveland Indians for two years and 16 million dollars (thrifty), and Mitch Moreland just re-signed with the Boston Red Sox for two years and 13 million dollars (thriftier and they were smart not to overpay a good but not great Eric Hosmer). Who still has a need for a first baseman?

By my estimation, there are four teams that may contend in 2018 that still need a first baseman. They are the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Colorado Rockies, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the New York Mets.

The Angels, according to Bleacher Report, have the worst farm system in baseball (this ranking was published before they signed Shohei Ohtani, who may start the season at Triple A). The Cardinals will be reluctant to move another four prospects after trading for Ozuna, and the Mets apparently do not want to spend any real money. That leaves the Colorado Rockies.

Jose Abreu to the Colorado Rockies for 1B/3B Ryan McMahon (MLB Top 100 prospect, #56; Rockies’ #3 prospect), P Peter Lambert (Rockies’ #5 prospect), and P Breiling Eusebio (Rockies’ #23 prospect).

Explanation: The prospect rankings jive with the Longoria deal with the exception of Lambert. Lambert would be a second prospect ranked in the top ten of the Rockies’ system to go to the White Sox, while the Longoria trade only drew one top ten prospect for the Rays. I’ve done that simply because I believe Abreu to be the better player with the more easily digested contract. McMahon balances with Arroyo, and Eusebio balances somewhat with Krook.

McMahon is major league ready and can play an adequate first or third base. His numbers at Double and Triple A combined last year are very impressive-20 home runs, 88 runs batted in, .355 batting average, .403 on base percentage, and .583 slugging percentage. Lambert and Eusebio, 20 and 21 years old, respectively, have starting rotation potential and could be brought along slowly due to the abundance of arms in the Sox system.

Next: What I hope some White Sox get for Christmas.

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