Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Chicago White Sox sign Cuban defector Jose Abreu for $68 million

The Chicago White Sox announced on October 18 that they had signed first baseman Jose Abreu if Cuba to a six-year contract worth a total of $68 million. The right-handed hitting slugger was a free agent and he just has to pass a physical before becoming a member of the American League team. The

Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers were also interested in signing Abreu.

The player defected from his homeland in August and the White Sox figured they needed all the help they could get after losing 99 games this season. Abreu stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 250 lbs and is sure to add some power to the Chicago batting order. North American fans got a taste of what Abreu can do when they saw him play in this year’s World Baseball Classic.

During the six games he played for Cuba, Abreu managed to pound out three home runs and nine RBIs while batting for a .360 average. In the 2010/11 Cuban season he belted 33 home runs and added 93 RBIs while batting .453 in just 66 games and was named the league’s MVP. As the White Sox could see, he has above average power and is a contender to lead the league in batting average.

Ken Williams, the executive vice president of the White Sox headed down to the Dominican Republic earlier in October to watch Abreu work out and was obviously impressed with what he could do.

White Sox player Dayan Viciedo, who also hails from Cuba and played against Abreu there, said the newcomer should have no problems fitting in well with the Sox and Major League Baseball. He believes Abreu’s offensive power should sign at U.S. Cellular Field, their home park. Viciedo stated,

“He's got a really good bat. He can hit. I remember that. I know he's a good player but more than anything, I remember he has a good bat."

With just 63 wins this season, general manager Rick Hahn said he wanted to build for the future rather than try to add players as a band-aid short-term solution. The GM stated that Abreu7 fits those plans perfectly because of his skills and age. Hahn is hoping the White Sox can improve gradually each year and is aiming towards at least 81 wins in 2014. The club is hoping to build a solid foundation that will enable them to become playoff contenders and keep them there for years to come.

Abreu didn’t come cheap and the White Sox might not do much more spending in the free-agency pool during the offseason. The team may still make a few trades to improve their depth and it’s known that they’re looking to add another catcher. Adam Dunn is the White Sox’ current first baseman/designated hitter and has one more year to go on his four-year contract. With the addition of Abreu, it means the 37-year-old Paul Konerko's job could be in question.

Konerko, who has been with the White Sox for the past 15 years and is the team’s captain, is eligible for free agency at the end of the season. He said he’ll think long and hard about his future plans before announcing his decision. He stated previously that he’d consider a part time role with the White Sox, but nobody else.

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