According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, three teams — the Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers and Houston Astros – have emerged as the favorites to sign Cuban slugger Jose Dariel Abreu. The bidding for Abreu is expected to reach $70 million.
The idea that three AL teams are trying the hardest to sign Abreu makes a ton of sense. His value comes almost completely from his bat and his ability to hit home runs. Even though Abreu was a first baseman in Cuba, his value in the AL would likely be maximized as a designated hitter.
The White Sox, Rangers and Astros all have needs offensively. The White Sox could potentially lose Paul Konerko to retirement, so they will be looking for a first baseman/DH to replace him. The Rangers’ Nelson Cruz is a free agent and it seems unlikely that he will be returning to Arlington next season. The Astros are just bad and they need help all over the diamond.
The one surprise that I see so far is that the Astros are going so heavily after him, given that he is 26-years old already and the Astros are still a long way from being competitive. Between the Astros, Rangers and White Sox, the Rangers seem to make the most sense for Abreu. He wouldn’t be expected to be “the guy” like he would with the Astros or White Sox, and they have shown more willingness to spend than the Astros or White Sox in recent offseasons.
Signing Abreu is definitely a high-risk, high-reward maneuver, but the reward is so high that it is a risk worth taking. His ability to hit 35-40 home runs per season would make him one of the best power hitters in MLB immediately. The biggest question about Abreu is whether or not he will be able to hit MLB pitching, because he will be seeing much better pitching than he had in Cuba.