In the past few years the major leagues have been experiencing a boom of Cuban players, seemingly all of them turning into at least good players, if not must-see players. So when Jose Abreu, who is 27 it should be pointed out, became a free-agent after his defection, I wasn’t surprised that a lot of teams would be interested. Sometimes these guys end up in surprising places – who saw Aroldis Chapman ending up in Cincinnati, right? But who knew that Jose was going to sign with our own Colorado Rockies for a over $60 million!!!! But if the story is to be believed, the White Sox shocked even Abreu’s agent and trumped the Rockies deal, and he became his new club.
The Rockies are all too often called cheap, but in 2010 they signed CarGo and Tulo – investing in key two-way players for the future. But those deals have been a failure so far, only because they haven’t made the playoffs and both players have been hurt too much. Big deals hurt smaller payrolls teams because they usually mean going with a below-league value player at 1 to 2 posiitions. So when the Rox went all in on Abreu to replace (hopefully future Hall of Famer) Todd Helton, it really surprised me. Was it worth the risk.
Abreu is the Cuban Barry Bonds (and Don Baylor, as he was hit 30 times in 2008-2009). In the 2013 World Baseball Classic he hit .383 with 3 HR and 9 RBI, awaking interest in him even as he was readying to escape Cuba. He is a big powerful guy, but not quite the athlete of the likes we have seen in Puig, Ramirez (White Sox), and Cespedeis. So the question was, would he get a big deal and would he be yet another of the great Cuban players of the era.
I was against the Rockies pursuing Areu personally. $60million is a lot of wasted money if it doesn’t work out, if, as is going to happen with one of these guys, he cannot make the adjustments to MLB. But the Rockies are well aware of the fact that they do not have a true prospect in the minors at 1B (example, Harrold Riggins, the starter at Tulsa, is 25, and struck-out nearly 200 times last year in High-A, even as he was 2 to 3 years older than others in the league). So they went for it and nearly got Jose Abreu to be their first baseman. He is making $7 million this year with the deal increasing to 2019 when he makes $12 million (at what will be age 32). In reality, that is only slightly more risk than the deals being given for #4 starters and some top relievers. So, maybe it wasn’t that much risk. Maybe the Rockies should have shot higher? Will they regret the decision?
For the next two years (or 3 if the option is picked-up) the position is going to be manned by Justin Monrneau for $5 million and then nearly $7. This year at least Justin is costing the team $2 million less than Abreu, which is basically the cost of Franklin Morales, who was acquired after their failure to land Abreau. After Morneau…we still don’t know. If Ryan McMahon keeps doing what he is doing in A ball, maybe in 3 years he is this team’s 1B (assuming they have not dealt Arenado who has Scot Boras as his agent). But aside from that, we need to be honest about the lack of talent at 1B in the farm system (not considering a move of Kyle Parker to 1B, which might happen).
When I saw Abreu this spring I wasn’t really impressed. When I saw in during the series against the White Sox, I was unimpressed…until I saw him crush 2 homers deep. Clearly Jose Abreu is a very ppwerful man. But is really any good? Well, as Grant Balfour, who gave up a deep deep grand slam to Jose Abreu to lose the game last night, giving Jose 9 homers and 27 RBIs in his first month of major league baseball. That ties both records (held by King Albert) since the start of the divisional play era (1969). In the next few days he may well hold the record for power and output for a rookie in his first month.
So…did the Rockies miss it? Should they have done whatever it took to sign Jose Abreu? Is his age (27), size (big) and lack of great defensive play, a big issue? Too much risk? Will the Rockies regret it? Given the high emphasis on ground-balls and infield defense, would Jose have hurt this team’s overall plan? Or do those majestic home runs and the chance to hit 40-50 (the White Sox park is a homer field nearly as much as Coors) homers top all else? Today, who would you rather have, Morneau or Abreu? Does the extra $2 million (aka, Franklin Morales) make a fairer deal? Or, is there someone else they should have so pursued?
Exit Questions for Response:
- Abreu or Morneau? Or who else should they have gone after?
- How many HR and RBI will Abreu hit playing at half his games US Cell Field (aka, new Comiskey), an offensive park? How many RBIs? Will he win the Rookie of the Year?
- Is the 1B of the future already in the Rockies system or will it be an ongoing list of free agents for the future?