Ozuna vs. Abreu, with a sprinkle of Santana

Marcell Ozuna had a breakout year in 2017, and once the Giancarlo Stanton acquisition fell through, it appears the St. Louis Cardinals made Ozuna their top offseason priority. He was acquired from the Miami Marlins for four prospects: OF Magneuris Sierra (ranked #6 in the Cardinals’ system according to MLB Pipeline), P Sandy Alcantara (#9), P Zac Gallen (#13), and unranked prospect P Daniel Castano.

This is relevant information to us, White Sox fans! Ozuna and Jose Abreu are similar big bats, one has been moved, and one could be moved (although I still doubt it). The question is, did the Marlins get a fair haul for Ozuna, and if so, what can the White Sox expect to garner should they trade Abreu?

First let’s make comparisons based on their 2017 seasons and current contracts before we delve a little deeper.

Marcell Ozuna:

2017 season: .312 batting average, .376 on base percentage, .924 on base + slugging, 30 doubles, 37 home runs, and 124 runs batted in.

Contract: Per Baseball Reference, he will make 10.9 million dollars in 2018. Final year of arbitration in 2019. Free agent in 2020. 2 years of team control remaining.

Jose Abreu:

2017 season: .304 batting average, .354 on base percentage, .904 on base + slugging, 43 doubles, 33 home runs, and 102 runs batted in.

Contract: Per MLB Trade Rumors, he will make between 35.8-40 million dollars in 2018 and 2019, combined. Free agent in 2020. 2 years of team control remaining. 

The stats are strikingly similar. Abreu had more extra base hits (82 to 69), and Ozuna had a better eye (64 walks to Abreu’s 35). Ozuna had a rather significant lead in the RBI department, but he had Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich, and Giancarlo Stanton hitting in front of him. If teams pitched around Stanton (85 walks) to get to Ozuna, he made them pay.

Defensively, the advantage belongs to Ozuna. He won his first Gold Glove in 2017, while Abreu is somewhere between slightly below average to average at first base. Age also leans Ozuna’s way. Ozuna just turned 27 in November. Abreu will turn 31 in January.

The money may also be rather significant, but if Ozuna has another year like 2017, his salary in his last arbitration year could be similar to Abreu’s.

Before we predict what the Sox could get in return for Abreu based on the Ozuna deal, we have to dig a little deeper than 2017’s numbers. Historically, what kind of production is to be expected from these players?

Ozuna, 2014-2016:

424 games played, 143 extra base hits, 56 home runs, 205 runs batted in, .264 batting average, .315 on base percentage, .745 on base + slugging.

Abreu, 2014-2016:

458 games played, 198 extra base hits, 91 home runs, 308 runs batted in, .300 batting average, .361 on base percentage, .878 on base + slugging.

These numbers indicate that Abreu is a consistent hitter and slugger, while Ozuna never hit above .269 and never had an on base percentage above .321 prior to the 2017 season. It was also Ozuna’s first season with 100 runs batted in. His previous high was 85. Abreu has driven in 100 runs every season he’s been in the major leagues (4). The disparity in extra base hits between the two players is significant.

The conclusion from my perspective is Ozuna has had one high-end season, while high-end seasons have been the norm for Abreu since he came from Cuba and signed with the White Sox in October of 2013. Despite the disparity in defensive ability in favor of Ozuna and the fact Ozuna will come cheaper, Abreu is the more consistent performer with a better resume.

The Cardinals did not trade a single player from MLB’s Top 100 prospect list for Ozuna, and they have five players in the Top 100. So, if Abreu is a better player than Ozuna, and we are considering the White Sox trade history involving their best players, a fair deal by Rick Hahn’s standards might not be on the horizon.

The Chris Sale, Adam Eaton, and Jose Quintana deals each brought a return of two MLB Top 100 prospects, plus others (a four player return each for Sale and Quintana, three for Eaton). Each member of this trio was signed for more years at fewer dollars than Abreu, but the idea the White Sox would accept a return that didn’t include at least one MLB Top 100 prospect is far fetched. Hahn has proven unequivocally that he will only accept the best deal for his best players, and Jose Abreu is one of the best hitters in all of baseball.

So, we can’t waste this Ozuna deal by not creating a possible Abreu trade, based on three factors-the Marlins’ return for Ozuna, the comparison between Ozuna and Abreu, and the White Sox recent history dealing their best assets.

Authenticity addendum! Former Indians first baseman Carlos Santana just signed a 3 year, 60 million dollar deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. That is close to Abreu money, but with one additional year at 20 million dollars guaranteed. I don’t think any sane baseball person would declare Santana a better hitter than Abreu. So, perhaps Abreu at two years of control is somebody the Indians might desire at a price the market has deemed more than fair. If the White Sox would dare to trade in the division (they did it with a lesser player in Melky Cabrera when he was moved to Kansas City at the trade deadline), this would be a good fit. Hey, they dealt Quintana to the Cubs for God’s sake, so anything is possible.

Jose Abreu to the Cleveland Indians for P Triston McKenzie (#21 MLB Top 100 prospect, #2 in Cleveland’s system), SS Willi Castro (#9 in Cleveland’s system), and P Shawn Morimando (#16 in Cleveland’s system).

Explanation: McKenzie is a MLB Top 100 prospect, something it seems the White Sox demand in their deals involving their best players. Castro provides depth behind Anderson, which is non-existent in the Sox system, and Morimando adds a back end of the rotation lefty, and left-handed pitchers have historically meant a lot to the Sox.

Next: If all the top prospects mature according to plan, what could Opening Day 2019 look like?

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