What could the White Sox get for Jose Abreu? The speculation in print, on sports radio, and online varies dramatically. Some ‘experts’ misrepresent how many years of controllability Abreu has left (2) or how much he’ll make through arbitration in 2018 and 2019 (35.8 to 40 million dollars, according to MLB Trade Rumors' arbitration calculator). Others undervalue him-one writer wrote that Avi would secure more/better prospects, which is complete nonsense. Still others seem less than aware of what Rick Hahn is doing. He does not want Jackie Bradley Jr. for Jose Abreu. JBJ only has one more year of controllability than Abreu, and he will be difficult to re-sign because he’s represented by the villain known as Scott Boras. The Sox want prospects. JBJ is an established major league player who will be 28 years old in April.
So what’s realistic? The most fun part of the MLB offseason for fans like me is creating hypothetical trades, but the fun part is that you create trades that are feasible. What’s the best way to do that? For me, it’s through trend (what have the Sox been getting to this point) and comparison (what are other teams getting for players similar in value to Abreu).
Let’s examine six trades to use as a basis. After that, we’ll assess teams with a need for a first baseman and then what first basemen are available via free agency to compare with Abreu.
The first three trades will be from home. Chris Sale, Adam Eaton, and Jose Quintana secured eleven prospects for the White Sox. These trades were documented in an article I wrote yesterday listing all of the transactions for prospects the White Sox have culminated since July 2016.
The Chris Sale trade netted two, Top 100 MLB prospects, Yoan Moncada (#1) and Michael Kopech (#30). The other two prospects were ranked within the Red Sox system, Luis Alexander Basabe (#8) and Victor Diaz (#28).
The Adam Eaton trade brought back two, Top 100 MLB prospects, Lucas Giolito (#3) and Reynaldo Lopez (#38). The other prospect was ranked within the Nationals' system, Dane Dunning (#6). Thank you Nationals! Enjoy Adam Eaton, but beware, he might suggest the batboy be named captain of the team in 2018. Nevermind.
The Chicago Cubs sent two, Top 100 MLB prospects to the White Sox for Jose Quintana. They are Eloy Jimenez (#5) and Dylan Cease (#63). The other two prospects the White Sox received, Matt Rose and Bryant Flete, were not ranked in the Top 30 of the Cubs' system.
One common thread between Sale, Quintana, and Eaton was they were signed to long term contracts at very reasonable rates. These are the years and the approximate total amount due (per Spotrac) for each player at the time of the deals.
- Sale, 3 years/40 million dollars
- Eaton, 5 years/38.4 million dollars
- Quintana, 4 years/36.85 million dollars
As mentioned earlier, Abreu only has two years left on his deal at approximately 40 million dollars. So let’s factor in to these trade scenarios that Jose comes with fewer years of control and he’s more expensive than the aforementioned three.
Look at the moves. Each White Sox player required two, Top 100 MLB prospects in return. That was the standard. The Sox and Rick Hahn made it apparent early on in this process that returns were about quality rather than quantity.
We’re not done! We need to be thorough. Sonny Gray, Yu Darvish, and J.D. Martinez were moved at the trade deadline in 2017. All are viewed as impact players, acquired by teams looking to make a run toward the playoffs. What did the A’s, the Rangers, and the Tigers, respectively, get in return?
The A’s received Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo, and James Kaprielian from the Yankees for Gray. All three prospects were ranked 12th or better in the Yankees' system, and Fowler and Mateo were Top 100 MLB prospects.
The Rangers received Willie Calhoun, A.J. Alexy, and Brendon Davis for Yu Darvish. All three were ranked in the Dodgers' system (#3, #17, and #27, respectively), and Calhoun was a Top 100 MLB prospect at the time of the deal.
Many in the media considered the Tigers' return for Martinez sub-par. This is a guy who had a line of .303, .376, 45, 104, and he carried the Diamondbacks into the wild card playoff game against the Rockies. The Tigers received Dawel Lugo (#4 in the Diamondbacks' system), Sergio Alcantra (#15 in the Diamondbacks' system), and Jose King (unranked). None of these prospects were in the MLB Top 100 at the time of the transaction.
Darvish and Martinez are currently free agents, so the Dodgers and Diamondbacks knew they were trading for rentals. That of course will affect a team’s return.
Sonny Gray has two arbitration years left with the Yankees, which would explain why, statistically speaking, the A’s netted the finest return of the three teams trading playoff assets.
Teams in need of a first baseman:
- Boston Red Sox
- St. Louis Cardinals
- Colorado Rockies
- New York Mets
- Cleveland Indians
- Kansas City Royals
- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Available first basemen via free agency (full time, non-platoon options only):
- Eric Hosmer
- Carlos Santana
- Logan Morrison
- Mark Reynolds
Let’s dispel some nonsense from the beginning. Other than Hosmer being a better fielder (despite some questionable defensive metrics that would indicate otherwise), no one on this list can compare with Abreu. He is consistent. He’s both a hitter and a slugger. He doesn’t strike out too much for the power he brings to the table, and his defense is improving. Hosmer is the only one on this list significantly younger than Abreu (Hosmer recently turned 28; Abreu will turn 31 in January).
At this point we can do a process of elimination. The Mets and Angels probably don’t have the prospect capital for an Abreu deal. Someone of Abreu’s caliber most likely would not be traded within the division (Indians and Royals). So that leaves us with three deals, two of which would hinge on whether or not that team signs belle of the offseason ball Giancarlo Stanton (Red Sox and Cardinals).
Whew! That’s a lot of work for three pretend deals! Nevertheless, the result:
- Jose Abreu to the Boston Red Sox for P Jason Groome (#42 Top 100, #1 Red Sox), 1B Sam Travis (#3 Red Sox) and 3B Bobby Dalbec (#10 Red Sox).
Explanation: Due to his length of control, cost, and age, Abreu will fetch a little less than the White Sox Big 3 of Sale, Eaton, and Quintana. This deal is more in line with the Darvish and Gray transactions. Hahn would never accept the deal the Tigers took for Martinez. Groome gives the White Sox a premium LHP, and Travis and Dalbec add more depth behind prospects Jake Burger, Gavin Sheets, and Casey Gillaspie in the corner infield. I saw Dalbec pitch and play 3B in the 2016 College World Series for the University of Arizona against Coastal Carolina. He is quite an athlete.
- Jose Abreu to the St. Louis Cardinals for C Carson Kelly (#31 Top 100, #2 Cardinals), OF Tyler O’Neill (#4 Cardinals), and P Junior Fernandez (#10 Cardinals).
Explanation: Kelly, considered by scouts quoted in Baseball America as the best major league ready defensive catching prospect in baseball, would move big lefty prospect Zack Collins to first base. O’Neill is a basher fit for RF if and when Avi is moved, and Fernandez is another young, projectable pitcher in a stable of them for the White Sox.
- Jose Abreu to the Colorado Rockies for P Riley Pint (#54 Top 100, #2 Rockies), 3B Colton Welker (#4 Rockies), and OF Forrest Wall (#11 Rockies).
Explanation: Like with the Red Sox move, I ignored a big bat (3B Mike Chavis Red Sox; 1B/3B Ryan McMahon with the Rockies) the White Sox might covet because it seems Hahn’s modus operandi is to get the best available player, need in the system be damned. Pint has been a future number 1 forever (he is featured in Jeff Passan’s book The Arm), Welker could add some much needed competition for Burger, and Wall is an outfielder, contrary to several White Sox outfield prospects, that’s ready to contribute at the major league level soon.
There is so much less to go on with one of my favorite White Sox, hustling big man Avi Garcia. He was a big time prospect when he came to the White Sox from Detroit in a three way deal that saw the Red Sox get Jake Peavy and the Tigers receive SS Jose Iglesias.
He proceeded to have several sub-par seasons, and White Sox fans seemed to give up on him while Hahn and the gang saw fit to give him one more shot. He responded in 2017, as I’ve mentioned numerous times, by having a career year; .330, .380, and 80 rbi.
I don’t think the White Sox will move Avi. I have nothing to base that on other than the plain, recent facts. He is coming off his best year offensively and defensively, he is still young (he will be 27 in June), he is not expensive (he made 3 million dollars last season), and he is under team control for two more years. The control aspect is the catch. Do they re-sign him prior to the big year, 2020, or get something for him now? I think they keep him.
Nevertheless, the Diamondbacks, Giants, and Mariners are organizations that could use a good, young outfielder like Garcia. The market for Garcia probably will take some time to develop until P/OF Shohei Ohtani, Stanton, and Martinez find their 2018 homes. I don’t think Garcia would require a Top 100 MLB prospect because he has one good season to juxtapose with 2+ below average seasons. I think two prospects, one young, one almost major league ready, both ‘B’ level, would do the trick.
- Avi Garcia to the Arizona Diamondbacks for LHP Anthony Banda (#4 in the Diamondbacks' system) and OF Anfernee Greer (#11 in the Diamondbacks' system).
Explanation: The White Sox used to be Left Handed Pitcher University, but there is a current dearth of quality lefties in their system. Banda got a taste of the big leagues last year (2-3, 5.86, 25-10 strikeout to walk ratio). Greer was a 2016 sandwich pick (a pick between the first and second round of the MLB draft created for teams that have lost valuable free agents) who had 30 SB at Class A Kane County last season.
- Avi Garcia to the San Francisco Giants for OF Bryan Reynolds (#5 in the Giants' system) and LHP Seth Corry (#13 in the Giants' system).
Explanation: Reynolds was an exceptional player at Vanderbilt. A second round pick in 2016, he batted .312, .364 OBP, with 10 hr and 63 rbi at High A last year. MLB Pipeline compares Corry to a young Matt Moore, a major league pitcher who has had success with Tampa and San Francisco.
- Avi Garcia to the Seattle Mariners for P Sam Carlson (#4 in the Mariners' system) and 3B Joe Rizzo (#10 in the Mariners' system).
Explanation: Sam Carlson is a 19 year old 2017 2nd round draft pick with projectable size (6-4, 195) and a fastball that tops out at 97 mph. Rizzo is also a 2nd round pick from 2016. Like Carlson, he is 19 years old and he could create competition with Burger in the minors.
I don’t think they’ll move either player this season, but they should move both. Both are only signed for two more years, one will be 32 when his contract expires (Abreu), and one player is at the height of his trade-ability, also with two years remaining on his deal (Garcia).
Next: White Sox draft picks that fit in with all the talent acquired via trade and the next wave of young players to come up after Moncada, Giolito, Lopez, et al.
Full Disclosure: When I was halfway through writing this article, I noticed a report that Ken Rosenthal from the Athletic stated Abreu will not be traded this offseason. He’s in the know and I am not, and I agree with him. However, it looked like the Sox would hold on to Quintana for all of the 2017 season until…