White Sox have deal with Cuban slugger Abreu
Chicago lands right-handed-hitting first baseman with six-year, $68 million pact
CHICAGO -- The White Sox and free-agent Cuban slugger Jose Abreu have agreed on a six-year, $68 million deal, pending a physical, sources confirmed to MLB.com late Thursday.
Two other teams, the Rangers and Red Sox, were reported to be in the mix for the 26-year-old first baseman, who defected in August, but in the end, the White Sox got the player who stands at the heart of their reshaping process coming off 2013's 99-loss season.
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound right-handed hitter posted a .360 average with three homers and nine RBIs in six games for Cuba in this year's World Baseball Classic. He hit .453 with 33 homers and 93 RBIs in 66 games during a historic 2010-11 season in Cuba, after which he was named the Cuban league's Most Valuable Player.
White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams watched Abreu during a workout in early October in the Dominican Republic, and though he had no comment about what he saw, Williams clearly was impressed.
Dayan Viciedo, who came from Cuba to the White Sox prior to the 2009 season, played against Abreu. The left fielder spoke about Abreu late this season and said that he would fit well in U.S. Cellular Field offensively.
"He's got a really good bat. He can hit. I remember that," Viciedo said through translator and White Sox coach Lino Diaz. "I know he's a good player but more than anything, I remember he has a good bat."
Abreu fits the profile of the type of free agent that would draw the South Siders' interest, as explained on a number of occasions by general manager Rick Hahn. The White Sox were not looking for a quick fix over a year or two, not by trade and certainly not by free agency, so Hahn has not been looking to bring in a just few additions to move the White Sox from 63 wins to somewhere around 81 in 2014.
There is no intent on completely giving up the 2014 season as part of the reshaping. Instead, the White Sox are willing to take a step back and build a strong foundation that will keep them as a perennial postseason contender for years to come, taking advantage of their increased bonus pools in both the First-Year Player Draft and international spending.
The addition of Abreu possibly represents the White Sox only major offseason foray into free agency, although the team could make other moves via trade and is expected to look to acquire a catcher. Adam Dunn will return with one year remaining on his four-year deal as part of the first base/designated hitter mix, but an Abreu signing leaves Paul Konerko's return a little more in question.
The 37-year-old Konerko, the White Sox captain, leader and staple of the organization for the past 15 years, can be a free agent and said at the end of the season that he would take a month or so before deciding his future. He expressed a willingness to return in a part-time role, but only if that were with the White Sox.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.