Cuban hitting star Jorge Abreu defects, but I don't expect the Cubs to win bidding war

Cuban hitting star Jorge Abreu defects, but I don't expect the Cubs to win bidding war
Jose Abreu

Jorge Abreu generated a lot of excitement last night as we learned about his defection.  He's a huge kid (BR has him at 6'2", 260 lbs.) entering the prime age of his career.  He's been playing at the highest level of Cuban Baseball - Series Nacional -- since he was 17.  Some call him quite possibly the best hitter in baseball, even saying he could be as good or better than Miguel Cabrera.

In 2010-2011 he put up the following slash line:  448/.592/.952 with 37 HRs in 77 games.  His last season at Cuba wasn't quite as gaudy at .344/.479/.604 with 19 HRs in 61 games.

The Cubs have said they will look in every corner of the planet for talent and there may be no more talented hitter in the world than Abreu.

So it's a no-brainer, right?  The Cubs should sign him.  They could definitely use that kind of hitter.

Not so fast.

There are a number of obstacles here.  The first is that Abreu is a 1B only and he is just adequate (at best) defensively and some think he may be better off DH'ing.  The Cubs have a 24 year old LH 1B only player in Anthony Rizzo who just recently signed a team friendly extension (7 years, $41M with options through the year 2021).

Rizzo is a superlative defensive 1B with very good plate discipline and power.  And while his numbers haven't been as good this season, statistics such as RC+ (109 this year vs. 117 last year) suggest he may not be as far off as we might initially think.  Rizzo has had better power  --ISO of .204 vs. .178 -- than he did last year.  The only real problem has been a low batting average which has been at least partially caused by a low BABIP of .259.

The question then becomes can the Cubs somehow make room?  Can either play LF adequately?  The answer is no.  Abreu has no shot at playing LF and maybe Rizzo can play it, but he won't play it well and the Cubs will make themselves well below average defensively at two positions in one fell swoop.  For a team that wants to build a good defense, that's not an easy sacrifice to make.

And not everyone thinks he can be Miguel Cabrera, some have said he's closer to Ryan Howard, which makes the decision even more difficult.  My guess is that if the Cubs think he's Cabrera, they'll seriously think about it, but if he's the RH version of Ryan Howard, it becomes less enticing.

We know the Cubs have the money to land Abreu, the bigger question is whether they want to devote that much payroll space to two 1Bs.  It seems like there would be a better way to allocate limited payroll resources at the MLB level.  Complicating the issue is that there are other teams who are willing to spend on the Cuban market -- the Red Sox, Rangers, and even the White Sox and Athletics -- and are missing a long term first baseman.  It stands to reason that those teams would be willing to bid high because at least two of those teams have the resources, all have the willingness to spend internationally, and each has the need for a 1B.  What's more, all 3 teams are in the AL and could slot him at DH if necessary.  That opens things up to even more teams in the bidding, such as the New York Yankees and possibly the Seattle Mariners, who are always looking for offense.

So it may not even be about how much the Cubs desire to add talent, their desire may be trumped by the greater needs of other ball clubs.  Their interest could be swamped by desperation.  And their philosophy of acquiring the best talent available might lose out to the practicality of better fit elsewhere.

I expect the Cubs to look into Jose Abreu with interest, but as far as signing him, I'm not expecting them to get into a bidding war -- much less win one.

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  • What a dilemma!

    This is a classic case of why the Cubs are at a disadvantage to AL teams because they have the DH rule and the NL doesn't.

    If the NL had the DH rule then we would be on an even par to bid for Abreu's services and not have to worry about his defensive liabilities.

    If he is even close to being Miguel Cabrera (offensively), then we should not hesitate to throw the bank at him. But wihtout the DH rule currently, it now poses big problems on defense, as John pointed out.

  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    I think if you think he's Cabrera, you'd be crazy not to be interested, but if not, then it's a different story to me. The upgrade over Rizzo in that case may not be that great and maybe not the wisest use of resources.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    No. I meant Abreu would only work if we have the DH. I didn't mean he would replace Rizzo.

    Maybe the NL needs to push a little harder for the DH rule, so that we can start using some of these "good hit/no field guys" a lot sooner, and in their most appropriate roles.

  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    I understood. I was agreeing with you by saying without the DH it doesn't make sense. But yeah, if they had the DH, absolutely go for it.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I myself would not dream of giving up on Rizzo or moving him to the the outfield for a 1 dimensional player, even if he is the second coming of Miggy. Rizzo saves so many errors from Castro now he is worth his weight in gold to this team, take a pass and develop your own players...

  • In reply to peoria cubfan:

    Agreed. If they were going to break the bank, I wish they would have done it with Darvish. Or maybe a slightly better offer for Ryu, who I know they really liked. But winning a protracted bidding war for Abreu doesn't seem like the most efficient use of their resources.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed, I too really wanted Darvish.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree with this, and also I'd add Puig to the list. Any possibility they Cubs could win bid and trade Rizzo to one of the teams you mention who are desperate for along term 1B solution?

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    In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    The answer is to get rid of the stupid DH rule, not add it to the NL and ruin real baseball.

  • I would sign him and trade Rizzo for major league ready youngsters.

  • In reply to CubFan Paul:

    So that's a pretty RH lineup if you assume Abreu, Baez, Soler, Almora, Bryant, Lake, Castro, Castillo, Olt...

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'd at least try Rizzo in LF first.

    If you think Abreu has a special bat and if the price doesn't go over $10M a year i would definitely sign him and make changes/trades later.

    I bring up the money because no Cuban player has ever gotten a market rate contract. Slugging first basemen go for $22M a year at least now. Abreu will get nowhere near that.

  • In reply to CubFan Paul:

    This same front office did try Rizzo in LF when they were with the Red Sox. That was a young, slimmer version of Rizzo and they quickly gave up on the idea. I can't imagine he'd be any better at it now that he's filled out and lost whatever speed he once had.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I obviously didn't know that.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    To build on that, it just simply doesn't make sense to move an already proven potential gold glove caliber first baseman to LF over a Cuban who is yet to prove anything in the MLB.

  • In reply to Burnsie25:

    That's pretty high risk. At best you severely weaken two defensive positions and hope that Abreu makes it worth it with his bat -- and that Rizzo steps it up with his bat as well to make up for the loss of defensive value.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Exactly. and I feel it's fair to figure that Rizzo won't perform any worse than he has this year.

    Not saying it has been a bad year by any means, but with Tony Four-Sacks, there's only room to go up.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    If we decide that Abreu is Cabrera and we have to go for him, one way around the issue is to trade Rizzo and another piece (Olt?) for a guy like Dom Brown.

    You only do it if your scouts say Abreu has a better than even money chance of being Cabrera, though.

    There's a lot to lose here by replacing Rizzo. Not only do you have the message to other players ("Bad season at 24 in your second full season with the team -- see ya!"), but Rizzo has already started establishing himself as a good citizen with a decent charitable program in the city. That's a lot to lose. If you're replacing it with the most devastating offensive force of his generation (as Cabrera is), then by all means, do it. But you're not just losing a .240 hitting first base prospect.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Move "Mike Squires" Rizzo to 3b. :)

  • In reply to Just Win:

    That was a crazy experiment. Loved those akward LH throws to first -- and Squires could really pick it at first.

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    In reply to CubFan Paul:

    I agree 100%

  • I would pass. The Cubs have enough big right handed power guys in the system. If Rizzo can play left for Abreu, he can play for another power hitting first sacker from the left side like Vogelbach. If one is to weaken the defense left and first are the positions to do it.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    That's a good point. If Rizzo could move (and i don't think he can), why not a cheaper power hitting guy from your own system who hits from the left side? I'm sure the interest is there. It'd have to be. But I'm having a hard time this will be a serious pursuit for the front office.

  • Cubs brass has mentioned multiple times that they are looking to add assets regardless of position. It sounds to me like Abreu would be a heck of an asset especially with the recent success of Puig & Cespedes.

  • In reply to Lothar:

    Yes, but you have to be practical about it too. They're mostly talking about organizational assets when they talk about not worrying about duplicating position, not those at the MLB level. They're also more inclined to double and triple up on middle of the field players since they can easily move to other positions if necessary (such as Baez).

    And when you have teams like the Red Sox and Rangers with similar philosophies when it comes to adding talent, just as much money -- and much greater need and fit, it seems that Abreu would very naturally have more value to them than he would the Cubs.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    It's a no brainer if our scouts think this kid is anything close to Cabby... Because Rizzo is not. He is a nice piece, but not a cornerstone. The problem is really that you would be selling Rizzo low. He is a nice trade chip if he hits anywhere near where he did last year. As he is today, he is on a team friendly deal that is attractive to trade partners, but he is not going to return what he could have three months ago... The other potential hang-up is that you discourage players from signing contracts like Rizzo did, because it makes him more trade likely, and makes players feel more like a "chip" rather than a valued contributor to an organization.

    This all being said, if we think Abreu is anything like Cabby (offensively) it is a good gamble. Worst case scenario we have a lot of young power hitting first basemen in the system that can step in if he fails. If we look at it in "practicality", it is the perfect gamble in that we have the insurance behind him in the system.

  • Unless he's a major upgrade over Rizzo, I'd pass.

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    In reply to fsufrenzy911:

    I think he is a huge upgrade over rizzo offensively. look at the numbers and compare what he did to Puig,Cespedes and Soler...This guy could be an AllStar immediately.

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    If he's any good, he's going to cost a bunch of money. We have alot of other needs to deploy financial resources on, 1B is just not one of them.

    Among teams that should be interested, I can think of Tex, ChW,Pit,
    SEA, NYM, COL, at least, and I'm probably missing some. Someone will pay more than we would like to.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Agreed on all those teams. I'd add the Red Sox as well.

  • Is there any reason the Cubs couldn't sign and then flip him to another team (for example, to a team which needs a 1B but doesn't want to spend quite as much as needed to sign him)? Is there a one year hold period (as there is for draftees), or shorter hold period as there is for free agent signees? It would be a good way to leverage the Cubs' capital advantages. Presumably he would need to be in on it in order to avoid negatively affecting the Cubs ability to sign others in the future.

  • In reply to brs2:

    You can't sign and trade FAs at the MLB level. You have to keep them for at least 6 months. Personally, I don't see that happening. Signing players to trade them for basically the next season is an unwieldy process.

    And what if Abreu is a bust? What if you take time away from Rizzo and Abreu doesn't hit as expected right away? Now you have a huge expensive asset who is basically a DH. Won't be easy to move.

    Just makes more sense that a wealthy team with a need will outbid the Cubs.

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    In reply to brs2:

    Sign and flips only make sense if the player outperforms the contract on the field. If the team you are trading him to is willing to pay the money, why wouldn't they just sign him directly and cut out the middle man?

    Initial indications are he'll go for alot more than Cespedes or Puig, so there's going to be alot of risk there. If he doesn't outperform the contract, then what do we do? Can't play both him and Rizzo without trashing our defense.

    This one is all risk.....if we just want to spend money to acquire assets to flip, pitching is a much better idea, because you can always find room for a good pitcher, or find a role for a mediocre one. Plus, it's worked pretty well for us so far (Maholm, Feldman), and costs alot less in risk

  • How old is he?

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    He'll be 27 by the time he plays, so right in his prime years.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks. After reading (most of) the extensive piece at Grantland, I say no way.

    This kid is not Miguel Cabrera. He is 27 and playing against competition most equivalent to the Daytona Cubs. So sure, if there was a kid ruining high A pitching to a tune of 1.400 OPS that would be exciting. But I just don't see it. He will likely be a great power hitting DH. He is very big and by reports but not very athletic. He is not Cespedes (who is not all that great anyway) or Puig.

    If the bidding goes over $40M, which it most likely will for 3 years, or 50 and 4 even, then no way.

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    I think it will exceed both of those prices.

  • I'm perfectly fine with the FO doing its usual. Make a reasonable offer an if that's not enough. Let someone else overpay.

  • Rizzo is only 24 and has become one of the faces of the franchise. With all the other prospects we have to develop and bring to Chicago acquiring Abreu makes zero sense. Pass on this guy.

  • I think the Cubs will make an offer on Abreu, but it won't be a particularly strong one. I do feel the presence of Rizzo and other first base options in the system (Vogelbach, Shoulders, Bour, and the long list of potential position changes) will drive down what Abreu would be worth to the Cubs.

    Now, if he wants to agree to a 4-year, $20 million deal with team options and the ability to be sent to the minors with the Cubs, I don't think they can say no. Hey, who knows, maybe he REALLY wants to play with Jorge Soler. The odds of this, though, are very slim, and I think we'll only see Abreu at Wrigley for a handful of games every year.

    White Sox make a lot of sense. Konerko's an impending free agent, and they do have a ton of money coming off the books with the Rios and Peavy trades. Wouldn't mind that since it would be easier to watch him play, and, hey, maybe there will be more telecasts from the South Side like yesterday where Hawk wasn't in the booth and it's actually enjoyable.

  • In reply to Jim Weihofen:

    I was thinking the same thing. White Sox could get their rebuild going in the right direction with a guy like that.

  • In reply to Jim Weihofen:

    Agreed -- and I don't think he goes for anything that low anyway. ChiSox could be a surprise player in all this. They've signed some MLB or near MLB ready players in the past (Ramirez, Viciedo) who knows. I think it'd be a great move for them. They've saved a lot of money on Rios/Peavy trades, as you say.

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    Or we could sign him with a NTC and flip him next off-season for Dallas Trahern, Burke Badenhop, Frankie De La Cruz, Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller and Mike Rabelo.

  • You said it right here, John:

    " For a team that wants to build a good defense, that's not an easy sacrifice to make."

    This does not get talked about much, but an excellent defense is one of the goals of the process.

  • In reply to Richard Beckman:

    No question. They rave about the defense of Rizzo, Castillo, Barney, and others. They have picked up guys like Olt, Villanueva, Almora -- and even Baez, Alcantara, and Soler have the ability to be great defenders. I don't think that's a coincidence.

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    This guy sounds and looks very unathletic. We just have to bank on our scouting, if this guy is the next Miggy, we should pay whatever it takes and deal with Rizzo later. If he's not, we'll just have to watch another talented Cuban player pass us by and hope Rizzo becomes the player we think he can be.

  • In reply to Theo Einstein:

    Agree completely. Scouting is what matters here. If they think he's Miggy, they have to think pretty seriously about this. If he's, maybe not.

  • I think the Cubs should take the chance and sign him. If he is the real deal there are plenty of teams that would want Rizzo or this guy and you get a great return. Rizzo is not the answer at first he is not clutch and is an avergage fielder. He looks very clotty and un athletic at first. If this guy can hit, this is what the Cubs need, POWER a guy that can deliver and Rizzo has shown he cannot and every now and then can pull something out of the blue. Watching Rizzo strike out looking is painful especially with the bases loaded!!!

  • In reply to sringh5:

    Rizzo "is an average fielder", you say? Hmmm....
    And what is "clotty"? Is he supposed to be on blood thinners?
    You may want to rethink a few things.

  • What level of the minors is the Cuban Serie Nacional equivalent to?

  • In reply to Eddie:

    A rough comparison is Daytona (high A). However, there are players there that are already MLB level and guys who wouldn't get out of Boise playing there too, so the average is like Daytona, but the range of talent is much greater in both directions.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Posted this in the other thread earlier. It's a bit wordy, but covers not just him as a prospect but the Cuban league as well.

    It talks a lot about the Serie Nacional level of competition. He could face an Aroldis Chapman type one day and a Rookie League level 17-18yo or a 42yo grey beard the next. They also use different baseballs which are much livelier.

    Scouts aren't allowed in the country. So they go off what they see in international competition which is a small sample size. Still Abreu did well in the WBC He quotes Ben Badler from BA and A's asst GM David Forst.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    There are some serious superlatives in that article.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Posted this in the other thread earlier. It's a bit wordy, but covers not just him as a prospect but the Cuban league as well.

    It talks a lot about the Serie Nacional level of competition. He could face an Aroldis Chapman type one day and a Rookie League level 17-18yo or a 42yo grey beard the next. They also use different baseballs which are much livelier.

    Scouts aren't allowed in the country. So they go off what they see in international competition which is a small sample size. Still Abreu did well in the WBC He quotes Ben Badler from BA and A's asst GM David Forst.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    am I seeing double?...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Thanks Hoosier. FYI, that piece is already linked in the article

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Sorry, I didn't click on your links.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I probably should have written where they came from. That would have made it easier!

  • I'm not ready to spend big free agent money yet. The Cubs won't know who to spend it on until we evaluate what we have for another year. We have a first baseman. Starting pitchers maybe.

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    You're telling me Adam Dunn can play left field (and I'm sure smarter baseball fans than me can come up with many more defensive anchors in the outfield) but this 26 year old offensive phenom couldn't become servicable?

    If we signed this guy to an 8 year $100,000,000 contract that would be CRAZY expensive but about half of what he'd command if this rumors are true. If Theo and his team do their research and they truly he can believe he can become an offensive juggernaut (I'm not going to say like Cabrera because I think it's a reach to say he'll become the absolute best hitter in the game) in the league then they have to go all out after him.

    This would be a perfect example of collecting assets for the present and future. If Rizzo and Abreu both developed into consistent weapons then we make way to make them both fit. Otherwise we move one for pitching.

  • In reply to the DCHAV:

    Adam Dunn was a big dude but he was an athlete. Big time college QB recruit out of Texas. This guy is not that type of athlete. He would cost a lot of runs as an outfielder and greatly reduce his overall value.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    YES. People forget that about Dunn. He was a decent athlete when he first came up, and he was still atrocious in LF. When people say they want to put a bad athelete like Vogelbach or this guy out there, they really need to consider that these guys aren't half the athlete Dunn was, so it isn't hard to imagine they would be twice as bad as Dunn. Hell, Soriano and Braun are good athletes and they struggle. Putting someone like this in LF would be an absolute unwatchable train wreck.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Exactly. It's hard to understand the magnitude of how bad they would be and how many runs they would cost on defense. The closest that I could think of was when the Reds tried to get Yonder Alonso into the lineup in LF. That play in LF was absolutely horrible. It was an embarrassment that made even the old Soriano look competent.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, l enjoy reading your articles, but I have to disagree on this post. Have you ever seen Abreu play that you can definitely say he cannot play as an outfielder? I doubt there are even any scouts, including Ben Badler, who have seen him play much outside of a few International tourneys, let alone predict how well he can play the outfield. 99% of the scouting community, except for the Dodgers were wrong on Puig.

  • Interesting dynamic is that the big clubs already have big money tied up at 1B - Dodgers, Angels, Phillies, NYY. Mets probably still have financial woes and we know about the Cubs.

    I see the Red Sox as players. After the budget reset (thanks Dodgers), Sox should have plenty of money. And they are competitive right now. Maybe the Rangers.

    Man, the DH puts NL clubs at a big disadvantage.

  • John, it's Jose Abreu, right? I'm seeing both "Jose" and "Jorge" in the article.

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    In that previous comment I was saying that the money we'd sign him too is half as much as we'd pay if he was a free agent after playing in the majors. And he'd most likely be in his early 30's. We'd get him for the entire prime of his career this way.

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    Semi-relevant rant:
    I am not a fan of the DH. I respect the strategy of the NL game. That being said, it's absolutely ridiculous that the two leagues play with different rules! I mean, what if the Eastern Conference refused to adopt the 3-point line? What if the NFC hadn't allowed 2-pt. conversions? It was crazy to me even before inter-league play, but now it's just plain dumb.
    Of course, daydreaming about all the power-hitting prospects we have on the farm right now enhances my feelings on the matter a tiny bit.
    I voted no on the poll because I have a hard time believing this guy could be Miguel Cabrera, because, who can? But, if you really believe this guy could be the BEST hitter in the game (or top 5), you make a serious run, and worry later about defensive positioning.

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    Even when the DH finally comes to the NL the Cubs organization has a shit ton of prospects that can fill that role. I still would love the acquisition for Abreau. Resources be damned. Over spend if you must. They make enough money. However if they don't get him and it looks like they won't I'm not going to trip. This organization won't be short onon offense in the near future thats for sure.

  • I am so ready to see the NL adopt the DH. I agree we should pass on him until the day we get to the World Series and the American League team bats Abreau and we put up our best utility infielder.

  • If this kid is truly "the best hitter on the planet" and the next "Miggy" then there should be absolutely no hesitation in getting into a bidding war for his services.

    His video game numbers are one thing, but the fact that it would give the Cubs even more "young" (if he really is 26) talent to build around. Having him and Rizzo is a problem you WANT to have. You can NEVER have enough lethal hitters in your lineup.

    The Cubs have a lot of financial flexibility and perhaps they could certainly swing this one. Rizzo really hasn't impressed me at all this season.

    After his "hot" April start where he hit 8 HR and drove in 20, his average each month after that has been .295, .231, .210, .175. He has 10 HR and 45 RBI since April. I know the Cubs don't exactly have a roster full of hitters to help Rizzo out, but it would be nice if he could pick it up soon.

  • If the Cubs have any kind of inside information on the DH coming to the NL possibly by 2015 or 16, & your scouts love him, then break the bank on him. If not, pass & save the money for when the next big international pitcher becomes available.

  • I don't really understand why we would consider this. O.k. dude is big and can hit thats awesome. However we just drafted a big dude that can hit and considering all of the 3rd base/ middle infield prospects we have currently if your itching to deal Rizzo (which is crazy we need his lefty bat in the near future) then move Bryant to 1st and let him swing away don't spend 50 mil plus on what we already have in abundance. Even if the dh is coming and the front office knows it doesn't change a thing we have plenty of potential sluggers coming up quickly, I would rather slot in voglebomb for future dh considerations and pay him nothing for several years.

  • I'd also have to look into Abreu's intangibles. Obviously Rizzo is already a steady clubhouse presence/lead by example guy. The low babip is encouraging. Personally I'd stick with the more balanced player.

  • The Cubs have spent 40yrs looking for a middle of the order left side power bat. Stairs, Rodriquez, Jones, Burnitz, Murcer, and others. Let's hang on to the one in hand and watch for two more in the bush.

  • If you think he's going to be anything near Miggy (the next is too unbelieveable for me) sign him, trade Rizzo.

    Hello Tampa, here's Rizzo and Soler.
    Welcome to Chicago David Price.

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    Abreu=Gehrig ? Rizzo=Pipp?....I know that Abreu may not ever be in the Gehrig lead but the Comparison may be plausible based on what he has done so far.Dont laugh, but a 400 average and 700+ slugging in any league is Amazing.

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