Rebuilding is fun. Fans can enjoy the wins, while also appreciating the losses that help give the team a higher draft pick. The present is bearable and the future is bright. However, rebuilding has its sad moments, as in order to stockpile young talent, the White Sox have to give away cherished veterans. Last offseason it was Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, two fan favorites that gave fans an array of memorable moments on the south side. Soon enough it will be Jose Quintana, but there’s one more star left: Jose Abreu.
The soft-spoken first basemen from Cuba has sold thousands of jerseys, launched hundreds of bombs, and made many memories in his three-year career with the White Sox. Trading Abreu would certainly leave my heart heavy, like many other Sox fans. But is Abreu even going to be traded?
Of all the White Sox veterans, he’s by far the biggest question mark in terms of his trade chances. At first glance, it seems like he is no different than a Jose Quintana: a premier veteran player who will net multiple top-100 prospects in a trade to a contender. However, Abreu is so much more than that.
Obviously, Abreu is an elite hitter. For his career, Abreu is hitting .299 and slugging .515, remarkable numbers. Currently, Abreu owns 106 home runs, so he’s on pace for 300ish in his career. How unique is his combination of average and power? Only 49 players in MLB history have batted .295 or above and recorded more than 250 home runs for their career. Abreu is on pace to become the 50th.
Let’s forget about everything else. Based on just those numbers, but also factoring in his age (30), and contract (arbitration-eligible through 2020), Abreu should fetch a top-25 prospect and one other top-100 prospect on the market. Contenders vying for Abreu would be getting a consistent slugger who is locked up for three more years.
Unfortunately, trading Abreu presents a hole in the White Sox organization at first base that can not be easily filled. First, they don’t have a premier 1B prospect in the minors. Worse, in the current MLB top prospect list, there are no first basemen in the top fifty. That’s right, zero. There were three first basemen drafted in the top 15 picks this year, but they went to the Rays and Royals, who don’t want to trade prospects, and the Diamondbacks, who don’t need Abreu because they already have Paul Goldschmidt.
Of course, the White Sox could attempt to live without a future first baseman for a while. They could attempt to get one in next year’s draft, but Rick Hahn would hesitate to do so with a (likely) high draft spot, and instead just pick the best overall player. There’s always free agency, but the best first basemen available in 2019 free agency are all very old (Joe Mauer, Adrian Gonzalez), and signing someone like Eric Hosmer in 2018 might be premature.
Besides the gap Abreu would leave behind him, he presents significant value outside of his production on the field. Hailing from Cuba, Abreu was a big reason Cuban phenom Luis Robert signed with the White Sox this May. Robert could use a mentor like Abreu who comes from the same country and speaks the same language. That goes for Yoan Moncada too, who has already expressed his excitement to play with Abreu, and Abreu said the same for Moncada.
Finally, there’s nothing wrong with keeping Abreu through the rebuild. Sure, he’s getting older, but he’ll only be 32 in 2019, and his batting abilities will come in handy once the Sox are competitors. The Cubs rebuilt and won the World Series, but they weren’t compelled to deal every single one of their veterans. Jake Arrieta was pitching well in 2014 and easily could have been traded for a couple prospects, but Theo Epstein held on to him and it paid great dividends.
If an amazing deal comes along, with two top-50 prospects, then Rick Hahn definitely needs to take a good long look at it. However, if a contender offers a deal that doesn’t feel like an overpayment, the White Sox should hold on to Abreu. On and off the field, he’s worth an incredible amount to the south siders.