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Jose Abreu’s first arbitration year doesn’t change much

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Modest raise should keep salary trajectory under control, whether or not he’s eventually traded

Chicago White Sox v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

By opting out of his original six-year deal and jumping into arbitration, Jose Abreu’s salary became a variable for the first time in his White Sox career.

So far, solving for [x] hasn’t dramatically altered the math.

Abreu signed on Saturday for $10.825 million, when he was originally under contract for $10.5 million. That’s a modest raise on one hand, and somewhat of a pay cut on the other. As was the case with Dayan Viciedo when he entered arbitration, a prorated portion of Abreu’s $10 million signing bonus would have been added to his 2016 salary for the arbitration process, bringing his total compensation to $11.67 million.

There aren’t a whole lot of comparable cases for arbitration in Abreu’s case -- somebody already earning (and deserving) a high salary in his pre-arb years, which is why MLB Trade Rumors’ $12 million projection was high and not particularly confident. The first stage has played out closer to Larry’s read, which was written before Abreu had a strong September to salvage his numbers further:

Bottom line, even with a scintillating month to close 2016, his realistic best case scenario is something close to his current 2017 salary of $10.5 million. So there's no gain in the first year from what he's already guaranteed.

With Abreu’s first arb-year salary on a slower track, the White Sox — or another team interested in acquiring him -- are still insulated from risk depending on which Abreu shows up:

  • First four months: .269/.325/.413
  • Last two months: .338/.402/.568

His salaries don’t seem likely to get out of hand if he picks up where he left off. If you believe Tony Blengino, his contact-quality report on first basemen leans toward the former Abreu being the more likely future form.

Abreu, on the other hand, recently was and still is supposed to be way better than this. Sure, he was really unlucky on fly balls (78 Unadjusted vs. 116 Adjusted Contact Score), but even that 116 mark is puny for an all-bat behemoth like Abreu. Year One, his average overall authority was yellow; Year Two, orange; Year Three (i.e. 2016), it was white. That’s not the progression you want. I believe that we have already seen the best of Jose Abreu; once players with his body type begin their decline, it’s hard to turn the boat around.

Should the last two months be a raging against the dying of the light, his team is a non-tender away from escaping the obligation. That’s a reality I’m prepared for, but I’m willing to give Abreu some benefit of the doubt. Nobody pinned his problems on injuries, but his bat looked so much faster during the second half that I’ve had to wonder.

More relevant than my hunches, there’s no risk in finding out. None of the right-handed thumpers in free agency have found a home since we last talked about it, so I’m expecting Abreu to stay put in Chicago, which is fine to great. A strong first half by Abreu would generate some electricity during the ugliest part of the rebuild, give Yoan Moncada something to look forward to, and become awfully tempting to other teams as a midseason addition.

In that hypothetical, Abreu would become the rarest of midseason additions -- a plus bat with two-plus years of control for a team that is selling all the way. Good luck coming up with comps for that one, too.