The sports media has been reporting that the Chicago White Sox are going to move on from Jose Abreu. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale suggested that they are going to part ways with him in a recent article.
Considering Nightingale all but guaranteed Eduardo Escobar was a future White Sox nearing the 2021 trade deadline (which proved false), there’s good reason to be skeptical of his information.
However, there are still some signs that the team might be ready to move on after his contract ends this year. They did a mini-farewell tour for him at the last homestand and promotions for 2023 season tickets have left Abreu out of the team photos.
It’s possible the marketing team has gotten the memo from the front office that they’re moving on.
Just because the White Sox could move on from Abreu doesn’t necessarily mean that they will but in any case, here is the Chicago White Sox 2023 projected lineup with their 2022 OPS+ (with 100 being average) without any free agent additions:
C Yasmani Grandal 64 OPS+
1B Andrew Vaughn 111 OPS+
2B Leury Garcia 42 OPS+
3B Yoan Moncada 78 OPS+
SS Tim Anderson 108 OPS+
LF A.J. Pollock 91 OPS+
CF Luis Robert 109 OPS+
RF Oscar Colas N/A
DH Eloy Jimenez 140 OPS+
The Chicago White Sox sure have a lot of work to do during the offseason.
From this projected lineup, the White Sox only have four hitters who were above average in 2022. This is not a particularly good lineup and it would be better to have Jose Abreu at 1B/DH and Jimenez playing left field than give Jose Abreu’s (133 OPS+) at-bats to A.J. Pollock (91 OPS+).
Many say that can’t Eloy Jimenez can’t play left field due to his susceptibility to injuries but it might work if A.J. Pollock can back him up as the fourth outfielder/defensive replacement, kicking Adam Engel off the roster entirely.
Another problem with getting rid of Jose Abreu is that he’s currently the best offensive player on the team. The White Sox need more good hitters, not fewer.
It would be fine to let Abreu walk if the money saved on him was going to go to a better offensive player than him like Aaron Judge, Carlos Correa, or Trea Turner.
The problem is that this is Rick Hahn we’re talking about and he’s not going to sign a better offensive player than Jose Abreu. He’s proven incapable of doing so many times over.
Many White Sox fans and commentators offer a simple solution which is to let Abreu walk, make Andrew Vaughn the starting first baseman, make Eloy Jimenez the DH, and then sign Brandon Nimmo to play right field. There are a few things wrong with this plan.
First of all, Jose Abreu was worth 4.1 WAR to the Chicago White Sox last year which was the highest of any position player.
Replacing him with Brandon Nimmo (5.0 WAR) would only result in an upgrade of 1 win, meaning the team would only improve from 81-81 to 82-80, not anywhere good enough for the playoffs. They would also lose a clubhouse leader and fan favorite in the process.
Additionally, Andrew Vaughn has also not hit well enough to take over for Abreu. Getting him out of right field might net the White Sox an extra win but that’s probably about it, given that he only had a .750 OPS last season which isn’t really good enough for a starting first baseman.
Even with his terrible defense aside, he still only produced 1.7 offensive WAR. Another problem is that if the White Sox make Jimenez a permanent DH, then they’ll have to fill two holes in the outfield at both left field and right field. The White Sox aren’t known to spend the money to add one, let alone two outfielders.
Nobody should be convinced that Brandon Nimmo would help the White Sox that much as he’s lacking in both power and speed, two areas where the White Sox desperately need to improve.
While he does have a career of .385 on-base percentage, that declined to .367 last year. People need to move on from the idea of getting an outfielder just because they can hit left-handed. How did Adam Eaton and Nomar Mazara work out?
What the White Sox should be doing is trying to sell another team on Vaughn and trade him for a star like Mike Trout or Shohei Ohtani. He’s one of the few core players that the White Sox could net an equal or better return in a trade.
While it might seem like a pipe dream, the Angels might be willing to trade Trout or Ohtani this winter and the White Sox need to be all over that. This is especially considering that signing free agents really isn’t their thing.
While the White Sox should trade Andrew Vaughn for a star, they shouldn’t just trade him to trade him.
They also shouldn’t trade him for a player that Rick Hahn or Kenny Williams falsely believes is a star as they did when trading Nick Madrigal for Craig Kimbrel. Hahn and Williams have really struggled at evaluating big-league talent.
While the Sox certainly shouldn’t just trade Andrew Vaughn if they can’t get a star in return, he really hasn’t earned the starting first base job yet.
He improved from a .705 OPS in 2021 to a .750 in 2022 but that’s still below the standard of a championship-level first baseman established by Paul Konerko. The only player who has lived up to that standard is Jose Abreu which is why they shouldn’t move on from him yet.
Jose Abreu should return on a 1 or 2-year deal and then move on from him if and when Andrew Vaughn passes him up which just hasn’t happened yet.
Vaughn might be 11 years younger than Abreu but that doesn’t make him 11 years better. The Sox need the best possible player at every position. First base is not a position where age matters much, given the great performance of 42-year-old Albert Pujols this year.
The fact is Andrew Vaughn just hasn’t earned the everyday first base job at this point. That job should stay with Jose Abreu until a better option presents itself.