White Sox: Jose Abreu’s 2016 Season and Why They Kept Him

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Sep 4, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu (79) hits a three run home run during the seventh inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. The Chicago White Sox defeated the Minnesota Twins 13-11. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 4, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu (79) hits a three run home run during the seventh inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. The Chicago White Sox defeated the Minnesota Twins 13-11. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /
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Jose Abreu had a down season but is an important piece for this team moving forward. The White Sox brought him back on a one-year deal.

Opening Day is just around the corner and when the Chicago White Sox start their season against the Detroit Tigers, there’s going to be plenty new young faces in the clubhouse. Barring a trade of Bryce Harper or Mike Trout, the biggest news of this MLB offseason has been the new faces the White Sox have acquired.

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The long awaited rebuilding process started with a blockbuster trade that involved All-Star lefty Chris Sale for four Red Sox prospects, including MLB’s Pipeline’s No. 1 prospect, Yoan Moncada.

A few days later, the Sox struck a deal with the Nationals. They traded Adam Eaton for three more prospects, including MLB’s Pipeline’s No. 3 prospect, pitcher Lucas Giolito.

Following the Eaton trade, the White Sox made another deal that involved Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu. Contrary to recent events, the White Sox signed Abreu for one year and $10.825 million. The White Sox could still shop for young talent by dealing their best players. If that’s the case, why did the White Sox hold on to Jose Abreu?

Because Abreu has been worth every penny. In 2013, the White Sox signed Abreu to a 6-year/$68 million deal. He arrived at U.S Cellular as one of the best hitters of the Cuban league. He said it was a dream of his to play baseball in the United States and when he arrived in Chicago, he had instant success in the majors.

Abreu’s first season with the White Sox was a smashing success. He broke the record for the most home runs and most runs batted in for a rookie in the month of April. He had a season split of 36 HR/107 RBI/.317 AVG. in 2014, which earned him Rookie of the Year honors and the Silver Slugger award for AL first baseman.

The next season he became the second player in MLB history to hit 30 or more home runs and have 100 or more RBI in the first two MLB seasons. His split for 2015 was 30 HR/101 RBI/.290 average. Abreu struggled to maintain his hitting success at the start of the 2016 season. After recording hits in five of the first six games of the season, he fell into the worst slump of his short MLB career.

Abreu’s hitting struggles were hidden behind the best start to a season the White Sox had since 2005. On April 25, Abreu’s batting average hit the season-low of .176. He had hit three home runs and had recorded 13 RBI during the month of April. The home runs and runs batted in were both  career lows for the month of April.

A month later at the end of May, the White Sox were done with their winning ways and were in a spiral down the standings. It was at that point when Abreu’s struggles became an area of concern. He had a .242 batting average, six home runs and 27 RBI. All MLB career lows through the month of May.

On June 18, the White Sox played the red hot Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. TheWhite  Sox lost 13-2, which was no surprise considering how both the White Sox and the Indians were playing up to that point. However, that game was a turning point for Abreu’s 2016 season. He began the day with a .259 batting average and was hitless in the previous two games.

From that game against Cleveland on June 18 to July 18, he started to find his All-Star form. Abreu recorded 30 hits and 13 RBI in the next 24 games. 12 of those 30 hits were extra base hits that included two home runs. He failed to record a hit in only three of those 24 games.

On July 18, his batting average was a respectable .272 and it only continued to rise. His batting average for the month of June was .306 and .289 in July. As the days were getting hotter, Abreu’s bat was also getting warming up.

Abreu hit a whopping .362 for the month of August. In the 27 games he played in August, he recorded at least one hit in all but three games. He raised his season batting average 20 points from August 1 to August 31 and even finished the month with 18 hits, 4 HR and 8 RBI in the last 14 games of the month.

In September, Abreu continued to hit with a .319 batting average and 25 RBI for the month. He finished the 2016 season with a split of 25 HR/100 RBI/.293 average. After a rough start, Abreu finished the season ranked fourth in runs, third in walks, second in home runs, doubles and OBP and first in hits, RBI, SLG., OPS., and total bases on the team.

Now, the situation the White Sox are hoping for is the same situation the Cubs found themselves in these past two seasons. The White Sox are hoping to have a great team in the near future, however, if the near future happened to be this season or next season, they have a player in Abreu who has proven to be a premier slugger.

Abreu provides more value than just a slugger

The signing of Abreu can prove to be even more beneficial than just numbers on a scorecard. Comcast Sportsnet Chicago reported that Moncada and Jose Abreu were once teammates in Cuba. If Abreu can mentor Moncada with the experience he’s gained in his MLB career, Moncada will be learning from one of the best hitting first baseman in the league.

Another possibility is the sale of Abreu at the trade deadline. If the White Sox aren’t in contention they could receive a nice package of prospects for Abreu. Just like they did with Sale and Eaton. The demand for players at the deadline is much higher than prior to the season beginning. At the trade deadline, teams are shopping for what they need to make the playoffs and win a championship.

The Yankees traded Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller at the trading deadline this past season and received one major leaguer and seven prospects. With the help of both Chapman and Miller, the Cubs and the Indians were pennant winning teams.

If the teams who were interested in Abreu at the winter meetings are in contention, the White Sox could trade Abreu for the right package that is loaded with more prospects.

Next: Colby Rasmus Could Fill Outfield Void

Overall, if the White Sox do intend to keep Abreu for the entirety of next season, regardless of a winning or rebuilding season, they can count on another productive season from the Cuban slugger.

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