José Abreu signs three-year, $50M contract

Locked in: Power-hitting first baseman José Abreu signed a contract that will keep him on the South Side through 2022. (Clinton Cole/South Side Hit Pen)

After making a big splash in free agency yesterday, the White Sox remained active, as they signed José Abreu to a three-year, $50 million contract. This contract will keep Abreu under team control through the end of 2022. Abreu will receive a signing bonus of $5 million, $11 million in 2020, $16 million in 2021, and $18 million in 2022 with $4 million deferred.

Abreu, who will turn 33 in January, is coming off a season in which he slashed .284/.330/.503 with a 117 wRC+, 1.9 fWAR, and 2.4 bWAR. Per Baseball Savant, Abreu was a bit unlucky last year. Abreu posted a wOBA of .344, but the quality of his contact shows that his wOBA should have been .359.

Though situational stats like hitting with runners in scoring position are not predictive, Abreu’s value to the White Sox last year was greater than his WAR may indicate. Abreu slashed .337/.368/.590 with a 141 wRC+ with runners in scoring position, and as a result, he gave the White Sox some much-needed hits in high-leverage situations. With this in mind, it is easy to see how Abreu led the American League in runs batted in (123).

Abreu has played six years in the majors and has yet to play for an organization other than the White Sox. In those six years, Abreu has been worth 17.9 fWAR, or 21.2 bWAR. If Abreu averages 2.0 WAR in each of the three years of his contract, Abreu would only be slightly behind Paul Konerko (24.0 fWAR/28.9 bWAR as a member of the White Sox) in terms of WAR.

Some have criticized this move as a classic Jerry Reinsdorf “loyalty deal.” While it is possible that Abreu will disappoint as he inches past his prime, it appears unlikely that this contract fits the “loyalty deal” description. Free agents are considered worth their price if they accumulate 1.0 WAR for every $8 million, so Abreu only needs about 2.0 WAR per season to reach that target.

Unlike the Grandal signing, which nearly every White Sox fan loves (and rightfully so), reviews on this contract are mixed. On paper, though, this is not an egregious overpay by any stretch of the imagination, and it is nice to have Abreu’s power-hitting and leadership back on the South Side.

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Joe graduated in 2018 with a degree in economic consulting from Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, also minoring in Japanese and studying abroad in Nagoya for a semester. He grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, but moved to Indianapolis after graduation. The White Sox are his favorite team in all of sports, and he considers it a blessing to have the opportunity to write about them on this great platform. He squeaked by with the 2018 #SoxMath championship despite intense competition from colleague Ashley Sanders. That experience helped put him on the map, as he started contributing to South Side Sox shortly afterward. Joe looks forward to delivering all sorts of content about our team.

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7 months ago

I like the signing. I could’ve gone to 4 years.

I’m going to pull a Mark Liptak, here. 🙂

We’re all complaining about Abreu’s post-peak phase, and nobody’s concerned about paying Yasmani $18 million, after he’s been squatting for 3 more years, and a .800 OPS will be wishful thinking.

I like both moves, yet people on Sox Twitter are freaking out, sad, and angry that Abreu wasn’t signed to the perfect deal, you know, the one they had in their head. Who knows? Maybe being a GM isn’t as easy as typing numbers and clicking ‘post’.

7 months ago

I’m OK with the deal. He’s keeping himself in good shape and at least be productive enough. Hope Jimenez doesn’t contribute to a log jam at DH in case defense becomes more of a challenge for Jose.

Mark Liptak
Mark Liptak
7 months ago

Fancy: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. LOL. I think Jose will be fine for another year or two and if he falls off the face of the Earth in year #3, that’s not going to be the end of the world. If the Sox truly want to have a seat at the big table, they they are going to have to play the game like the big boys…that means spending money and taking risks. I would just feel better if people with a better track record of success in scouting, developing and running the front office were in… Read more »