With little activity on the hot stove, it doesn’t take much for a rumor to raise red alerts, because there isn’t more urgent activity drowning the lesser murmurs out.
Take Jon Heyman on Wednesday, for instance:
chisox have been in active talks with red sox and others on star 1B jose abreu. boston was 1 of 4 finalists for abreu when he signed with chicago (milwaukee & houston were the others).— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 29, 2017
This became a surprisingly big deal given the lack of specificity. There is some realism to this one, because Boston’s needs for a power hitter and first baseman are evident. They’ve reportedly talked to Carlos Santana, and Heyman has been trying to make Scott Boras client Eric Hosmer a match. Plus, what else is there to talk about? We may as well dig into it.
Two proven starters and a decent second tier (Logan Morrison, Yonder Alonso) in free agency would seemingly reduce Abreu’s market, but he has the best power bat of the bunch, and he’s a true righty as opposed to a lefty (Hosmer) or switch-hitter (Santana). Abreu’s not a pure pull hitter, so maybe he wouldn’t be able to take special advantage of the Green Monster, but his approach has worked there so far (.354/.425/.662 over 73 PA).
Likewise, the White Sox continued to add to their pile of Triple-A power corner types.
The @whitesox signed minor league free agent 1B Matt Skole as they continue to stockpile bruisers. Chicago acquired Casey Gillaspie and D.J. Peterson during the season, though they subsequently lost Peterson on waivers.— Matt Eddy (@MattEddyBA) November 29, 2017
This can’t be connected to Abreu in and of itself. Skole, 28, has hit .238/.332/.444 with 43 homers over 246 games at Triple-A Syracuse while splitting his time between first and third base. He has all the makings of an organizational player.
Skole is more intriguing because the White Sox have already added Casey Gillaspie, Daniel Palka and Patrick Leonard to their Triple-A corner mix over the past several months, with Matt Davidson, Nicky Delmonico above them, and Danny Hayes somewhere in the mix, too. It seems like they’ll have filler for Charlotte in the event they need to dip into their depth earlier than expected. Add up everything, and the conditions are such that any Abreu rumor can’t be easily waved away.
The finances don’t fit as neatly into trade discussions, though. Abreu is projected to make $17.9 million in 2017 according to MLB Trade Rumors’ arbitration projections, with his final year of arbitration afterward. If he produces along his career track record, he should justify that salary and then some, but it’s still a considerable number for luxury-tax figuring. It may come in at a lower average annual value than Santana or Hosmer, but it’s definitely higher than Morrison/Alonso/etc.
The two years of team control may not be a stumbling block, because maybe the Red Sox would rather acquire a veteran first baseman for two years rather than five. The bigger question is what the Red Sox are willing to pay the White Sox for the privilege of a slightly lower salary at first base and the benefit of side-stepping the new free-agent compensation rules (second-highest draft pick, $500,000 in international bonus money).
The Red Sox have some intriguing prospects in their depleted farm system — pitchers Jay Groome and Tanner Houck, second baseman Michael Chavis -- but would they want to further diminish their farm system when other solutions are freely available? On the other side, the White Sox’ payroll is going to come in well under their usual levels, so they’re under no pressure to settle for less despite Abreu’s considerable salary. Yoan Moncada is here to make sure of it:
A Red Sox-White Sox trade makes enough sense to warrant “active talks,” but I don’t see enough motivation on either side to push it past the why-not-just-sign-a-free-agent threshold. I could be wrong, but my guess is that Abreu is a more of a bogeyman other teams will use in an attempt to lower a free agent’s demands. If that’s the case, this will only be a rumor, and it probably won’t be the last one.