The trade deadline is fast approaching and I am badly in need of writing something that will be absolutely wrong in two weeks. So here we go.
After taking a look at the market, both buyers and sellers, as well as the incentives for the Sox to hold on to Jose Abreu; I simply don’t see him getting moved.
The Market Buyers: There are roughly 20 teams with better record than the Sox, but that doesn’t mean they’re all buying. It also does not mean that each team needs, or is willing to pay for, an upgrade at 1B.
The most in need are the Rockies, Rays, and Rangers. The Rockies and Rangers could upgrade at positions of greater need and move players to 1B like Ian Desmond and Joey Gallo. Not to mention, neither is a shoe in for the playoffs. The Rays are looking pretty good, but I would be surprised to see them pay much for a short term fix while Ji-Man Choi is on the IL. They’ve already brought up their top 1B prospect to fill in. If that doesn’t work, maybe they go to the scrap heap for someone like Yonder Alonso. Sorry, I had to.
The Red Sox and Astros appear to be buyers right now as well, but the return of Mitch Moreland will remove Boston and when Carlos Correa comes back, Yuli Gurriel will go back to 1B and Houston will also be off the list.
The rest of the teams are pretty set at 1B and DH, which shouldn’t be a surprise because that’s what good teams do.
Sellers: The teams doing worse than the Sox mostly have terrible rosters, but there are some exceptions. Of course, teams like the Mets won’t part with a Pete Alonso. However, they may be willing to sell Dominic Smith, who they’ve been hiding in the outfield to get at bats. An interesting one might be the Mariners and if they’re willing to move Daniel Vogelbach. He’s garbage in the field but he mashes and is cheap. I never put it by the Mariners to make a move, so why not? There are also two similar players in very different contract situations: Brandon Belt and Justin Smoak. Both are worse than Abreu, but definitely cheaper. Belt will likely be given away if the buyer takes on his contract. Smoak on the other hand is entering free agency and based on his contract size, I can’t possibly see the Jays assigning enough value to him to give him a qualifying offer. Which brings me to the Sox incentive to hold Abreu.
The Qualifying Offer If Abreu stays with the team until the end of the year, the White Sox can give him a qualifying offer. The likely number on this would be somewhere in the $18M range. If you recall, after the first 3 years of his contract, he opted into arbitration and therefore had 3 years of arbitration in which he out-earned his original contract. This year he’s making $16M, so the qualifying offer acts as a 4th arb year in terms of dollars. Abreu will not likely find a higher offer for a single season, not to mention that if he declines he’ll cost the team he signs with a draft pick. It’s excellent leverage for the Sox and doesn’t tie them into a contract past 2020. If it’s true that they expect Andrew Vaughn to quickly move through the minors, being able to decide again on Abreu after 2020 seems optimal.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Abreu is a valuable player and he’s a guy I love to watch play. I just can’t see anyone paying the price the Sox will want when they know they have this scenario at the end of the season.