Sox close to signing Cuban slugger Jose Abreu
By Daryl VAN SCHOWEN Staff Reporter October 17, 2013 11:29PM
Sun-Times sportswriter Daryl Van Schouwen. January 27, 2012 | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times
Updated: November 19, 2013 6:38AM
The White Sox liked what they saw of Jose Abreu when they attended the Cuban free agent’s showcase this month. In need of offense, power and reviving interest in a team that soured its fan base with a dreadful 99-loss season, the Sox are close to making a splash with the expected signing of the power-hitting first baseman to a six-year, $68 million deal.
A major-league source told the Sun-Times that the Sox, who view Abreu as a long-term middle-of-the-lineup building block, put the highest offer on the table for Abreu. The deal is expected to be done pending a physical.
General manager Rick Hahn declined to discuss the deal.
“As you have heard from me before, we don’t discuss rumors,” he said in a text message to the Sun-Times.
It has been known for months that the Sox would be in the mix for the 6-3, 250-pound right-handed-hitting Abreu. The Red Sox, Rangers and Astros also were believed to be bidding, with the Astros stepping away after making a final offer in the $50 million range, the source said.
The Sox were said to be contenders for another Cuban star, Yoenis Cespedes, before the Athletics swooped in late and signed him to a four-year, $36 million deal in 2012. The Sox have been typically tight-lipped on Abreu since executive vice president Ken Williams talked about him in August.
Abreu is viewed by most as the biggest free agent on the market. The success of Yasiel Puig, also from Cuba, and Cespedes has only increased Abreu’s value.
Puig got a seven-year, $42 million deal from the Dodgers last winter. Cespedes and Puig, outfielders with speed and arm strength, provide more than the one-dimensional Abreu, a slugger who hit .453 in the Cuban Serie Nacional with 33 home runs and 93 RBI in 66 games in 2010.
He was 9-for-25 with three homers and nine RBI in the World Baseball Classic last spring.
“If it’s big money, it’s big money,’’ Williams said in August. “Can we fit it into our equation? We’ve spent money before at given times. It has to fit into the current equation and our three-year look. But I need to see more video.’’
Williams saw Abreu, 26, in person at the showcase in the Dominican Republic. He declined last week to comment on his assessment, saying only via text to the Sun-Times, “[Chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] and [Hahn] know what I think.’’
With a much lighter payroll with Alex Rios, Jake Peavy, Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain and possibly Paul Konerko off the books, Hahn appears willing to spend if it makes sense for the long term.
The addition of Abreu might signal the end for Konerko, who said during the last weekend of the season that he would take a month to decide whether he wants to play another year. Konerko also wanted a clear read from the Sox on their intentions.
He could be used as a designated hitter, but the Sox also have Adam Dunn, who could be traded if the Sox are willing to eat a sizable portion of the $15 million on the final year of his contract.