Chicago White Sox: Jose Abreu has a weird fit in long-term picture

Joshua Finkelstein
(Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images) /
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The Chicago White Sox have an interesting dilemma that could play out over the next few years at first base.

During the offseason, the Chicago White Sox were able to keep Jose Abreu in the fold as he accepted the $17.8 million qualifying offer to stay in the South Side.

Not too long after that, the team decided to give Abreu an extension that essentially wiped out the qualifying offer and turned it into a three-year, $50 million pact that would keep him in Chicago through the 2022 season.

Abreu, 33, definitely provides value now as he was very productive in 2019, a season in which he led the American League in RBI with 123.

In addition to that, he hit .284/.330/.503 with 33 home runs and a 117 wRC+. However, his defense (-8 DRS and -1.9 UZR) brought his fWAR down to 1.9 (FanGraphs).

With a transition year coming for the Chicago White Sox, keeping him around makes a ton of sense.

That being said, the future picture for Abreu is in question.

Andrew Vaughn, 21, is the team’s third-best prospect (21st in baseball) according to MLB Pipeline and he’s been opening some eyes in spring training.

Gavin Sheets, 23, is also a first base prospect (ranked12th in the organization) who already appears to be blocked by both of them in the near future, at least.

Of these three, the team is certainly hoping that Vaughn has the biggest and brightest future of them, given his age and potential to be a star.

So where would that leave Abreu?

The simple answer is that he could become the team’s designated hitter on a more regular basis.

However, that is going to be somewhat difficult to make sure happens for him as the team has some other players to consider, and I don’t mean Edwin Encarnacion who is more of a temporary DH for the team.

Zack Collins and Yasmani Grandal are the two biggest players to consider as both are backstops and could have long-term futures with the Chicago White Sox.

Preferably, the team would love to keep Grandal behind the plate for all four years he plays in Chicago.

At 31-years-old already, though, the team might need to let him catch less often towards the end of his contract for health purposes.

With that being the case, the DH and/or first base spot would have to be available to him or he’d have to sit on his off days.

Collins, 25, is either going to earn a backup catcher role or start the season in Triple-A Charlotte this year, but long-term, the hope will probably be to get him major league at-bats in at least a semi-regular basis.

Those opportunities would either have to come behind the dish, at DH, or at first base.

The only one of those that would potentially not impact Abreu once Vaughn arrives is if he catches while Grandal sits. Otherwise, they would have four players vying for three starting spots.

Another player who could complicate this situation is Eloy Jimenez who has been working to improve his defense enough in 2020 that he can stay in left field long-term.

If he can’t, though, the Chicago White Sox would essentially have to choose between playing Abreu, Vaughn, and Jimenez on a given night.

That would be a tricky situation to manage even without accounting for Collins and Grandal, who would both almost certainly cut into that situation as well, even in a best-case scenario.

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Jose Abreu could definitely help the Chicago White Sox win this season and even in the future, but his presence could become a complicated situation for the organization soon.

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