October 18, 2013


The Chicago White Sox made a Cuban defector the highest paid international free agent in the history of the sport.

MLB.com reports that the White Sox will sign Cuban first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu for six years and $68MM, The deal is pending a physical. This deal easily beats the Dodgers Yasiel Puig's 7 year/$42 million deal.

Abreu, 26,  set a Cuban home run record in 2010-2011 and was named league MVP. He had played five seasons in the Cuban Serie Nacional through 2008 hitting .295 and slugging .467. After 48 games in 2008-2009, he was batting .345/.368/.600, earning the infielder a spot on Cuba's WBC squad.  He did not make the final cut and finished the season with a .346/.441/.630 batting line.

In 2009-10,  Abreu had his best year yet, hitting .399/.555/.822 with 82 runs, 30 homers, 76 RBI and 74 walks to 49 strikeouts in 89 games. He tied for 6th in the Serie Nacional in runs, tied for third with 25 doubles, tied  for second in home runs,  was third with 235 total bases, tied for 4th in walks, led with 32 intentional walks,  was second in average, and led in slugging percentage.  He was named the All-Star first baseman.

Abreu continued to improve in 2011-12 with one of the greatest seasons in Cuban history. He hit .453/.597/.986 with 79 runs, 93 RBI and 33 home runs in only 66 games. Despite missing 23 games due to bursitis in his shoulder, he broke Despaigne's home run record with 33. 

In 2012-13,  Abreu produced at a .382/.535/.735 clip with 13 home runs, 37 runs, 36 RBI and 37 walks in a shortened 42 game season.

Abreu has plenty of international game experience. His team won the 2010 Intercontinental Cup,   their first Gold in an international tournament in three years. He hit .292/.320/.500.He was the All Star first baseman in the 2011 Baseball World Cup hitting .442/.478/.721 with 3 home runs and 10 runs in 11 games. In the 2013 WBC,  he  was 9 for 25 with a walk, double, 3 home runs, 6 runs and 9 RBI in six games.

Front offices believe Abreu is a "finished" product ready for major league action. However, several scouts believe that Abreu has holes in his swing and is a poor defender. He was been compared to Ryan Howard or Barry Bonds in power.  Some experts have had concerns about Abreu's bat speed,  his athleticism and defense skills. As such, a few project Abreu more of an Adam Dunn type player: batting around .240, with 25-30 HR per season.

Why would the White Sox overpay for the Cuban version of Dunn, a player already on their roster? First, Dunn is in the last year of his disappointing contract. Second, this means Paul Konerko will not be back with the club. Third, Abreu has more upside potential than either Dunn or Konerko at his point in their careers. Fourth, Abreu is locked up for what should be his "prime" productive years as a player. If Abreu can give the Sox a jolt like Puig did for the Dodgers, then the contract makes sense.