Locked in: Power-hitting first baseman José Abreu signed a contract that will keep him on the South Side through 2022. (Clinton Cole/South Side Hit Pen)
After making a big splash in free agency yesterday, the White Sox remained active, as they signed José Abreu to a three-year, $50 million contract. This contract will keep Abreu under team control through the end of 2022. Abreu will receive a signing bonus of $5 million, $11 million in 2020, $16 million in 2021, and $18 million in 2022 with $4 million deferred.
Abreu, who will turn 33 in January, is coming off a season in which he slashed .284/.330/.503 with a 117 wRC+, 1.9 fWAR, and 2.4 bWAR. Per Baseball Savant, Abreu was a bit unlucky last year. Abreu posted a wOBA of .344, but the quality of his contact shows that his wOBA should have been .359.
Though situational stats like hitting with runners in scoring position are not predictive, Abreu’s value to the White Sox last year was greater than his WAR may indicate. Abreu slashed .337/.368/.590 with a 141 wRC+ with runners in scoring position, and as a result, he gave the White Sox some much-needed hits in high-leverage situations. With this in mind, it is easy to see how Abreu led the American League in runs batted in (123).
Abreu has played six years in the majors and has yet to play for an organization other than the White Sox. In those six years, Abreu has been worth 17.9 fWAR, or 21.2 bWAR. If Abreu averages 2.0 WAR in each of the three years of his contract, Abreu would only be slightly behind Paul Konerko (24.0 fWAR/28.9 bWAR as a member of the White Sox) in terms of WAR.
Some have criticized this move as a classic Jerry Reinsdorf “loyalty deal.” While it is possible that Abreu will disappoint as he inches past his prime, it appears unlikely that this contract fits the “loyalty deal” description. Free agents are considered worth their price if they accumulate 1.0 WAR for every $8 million, so Abreu only needs about 2.0 WAR per season to reach that target.
Unlike the Grandal signing, which nearly every White Sox fan loves (and rightfully so), reviews on this contract are mixed. On paper, though, this is not an egregious overpay by any stretch of the imagination, and it is nice to have Abreu’s power-hitting and leadership back on the South Side.