The White Sox have indicated a change in player acquisition philosophy this off season.  They have publicly said they plan to move away from “stop-gap” fixes and focus on acquiring longer-term controllable players for the 2017 season and beyond.  Many within the industry and who are familiar with the club are confident that this shift indicates the White Sox willingness to begin a full roster re-build.  This post is the second in a White Sox “Deal or No Deal” series, where we are looking at some potential trade options for a re-build scenario.

Jose Abreu’s early 2016 performance was not what we have come to expect and led some to suggest that decline has begun to set in.  His slash line was .229/.303/.354 in April and .252/.306/.405 in May – a far cry from rookie and sophomore season numbers that saw Abreu join Albert Pujols as the only players in MLB history to hit 30 HR and collect 100 RBI in their first two seasons.  However, Abreu found a groove in June and July, steadily raising his average.  In August and September, a surge in power brought Abreu back to the form White Sox fans have become accustomed too.  There are a few potential reasons for the slow start the plagued Abreu in 2016, including a slight change in his hand position during his swing load.  Also, coincidentally or not, Abreu’s power stroke noticeably improved when he was reunited with his son who visited from Cuba in August.  Despite his slow start, Abreu’s “back of the baseball card” numbers finished out close to his career averages, yielding a slash line of .293/.353/.468 with 25 HR and 100 RBI.  His 2016 efforts equate to a 2.8 bWAR, which is respectable, but nearly all of Abreu’s value comes with the bat.  He adds little value in the field or on the bases.  Abreu has had ankle problems in the past and would likely benefit from being able to DH more with the White Sox or any team who potentially acquires him, to give him additional rest.

Jose Abreu will play the entirety of 2017 at age 30, and is under team control for 3 more years.  Abreu’s contract was originally a 6 year deal that would have paid him $10.5 MM in 2017, $11.5 MM in 2018, and $12 MM in 2019.  However, the contract also allowed him the option to opt out of the final 3 years of the contract and opt in to the arbitration system.  Abreu has exercised this option, and is arbitration eligible for 2017.  The White Sox will now work with Abreu’s representation to determine a fair salary for 2017 – likely a small raise from $10.5 MM.  If they are unable to reach a deal, an arbitrator will determine his 2017 salary at a later date.  While he is still under team control through the 2019 season, opting into the arbitration system will likely award him with a higher salary than his original contract each season going forward.  His salary should still be a relative bargain compared to open market prices.  This will not adversely affect Abreu’s perceived value.  Abreu’s career through his 3 MLB seasons has been a model of consistent production, ranking him amongst the top 5 or 6 MLB 1st basemen.  The former AL Rookie of the Year could be very appealing in a trade, especially to smaller market teams looking for some solid offensive production at a fair salary.  So, what does Rick Hahn ask for if he sells Abreu to the highest bidder?  Let’s take a look at some options.

Option #1:  Tampa Bay Rays

Who the White Sox may ask for:

SP Brent Honeywell – Rays #2 prospect, Baseball America #65 ranked prospect in MLB for 2016.

1B Jake Bauers – Rays #3 prospect, 2013 7th round draft pick (SD).

1B Casey Gillaspie – Rays #9 prospect, 2014 1st round draft pick.

SP Jamie Schultz – Rays #11 prospect, 2013 14th round draft pick.

P Hunter Wood – Rays #18 prospect, 2013 29th round draft pick.

The Tampa Bay Rays will be an interesting team to watch this offseason.  They have publicly said that they are itching to be competitive again.  At the same time, they have a lot of attractive pieces they could trade off, to expedite and/or continue a re-build.  Should they try to add to their 2017 Major League roster, they certainly have talent in their farm system to offer other teams, and Abreu is a piece I could see them being interested in.

If his performance in the Arizona Fall League is any indication, Brent Honeywell is not far from dominating Major League hitters.  He has 3 plus pitches – fastball, changeup, and… a screwball!  The White Sox would certainly ask for him in any potential deal, but it is very likely Rick Hahn will not hear anything on the other side of the phone, as newly appointed Rays GM Erik Neander will have suffocated from hard laughter.  So that’s a no on Honeywell.  The Rays have other talent to offer though, including a couple of intriguing 1B prospects in Jake Bauers and Casey Gillaspie.  Bauers is an athletic player who can also play corner outfield.  At the plate he has a good feel for the barrel, and is very disciplined.  He more than held his own as a 20 yr. old in his second season at AA.  He is the 1B prospect I target if I’m Rick Hahn.  Casey Gillaspie, younger brother of “out-of-nowhere-Aroldis Chapman-high-fastball-hitting” playoff hero Conor Gillaspie, is a very intriguing player as well.  He has light tower power, but will have more swing and miss in his game than Bauers.  Jamie Schultz is a big stuff pitcher who struggles with control – a perfect candidate for Don Cooper to get right.  Hunter Wood also has a big, fast arm, and has better command than Schultz, but is probably more of a back end reliever.

Deal or No Deal:  It’s fun to think about, but I don’t think the Rays would pull the trigger.  I don’t see them including Honeywell, and I don’t see a deal getting done without him as the centerpiece.  No Deal.

Option #2:  Cleveland Indians

Who the White Sox may ask for:

1B Bobby Bradley – Indians #3 prospect, Baseball America #93 ranked prospect in MLB for 2016.

C Francisco Mejia – Indians #4 prospect, 2012 international signing.

SS Yu-Cheng Chang – Indians #8 prospect, 2013 international signing.

SP Rob Kaminsky – Indians #18 prospect, 2013 1st round draft pick (STL).

The Indians made a big splash at the 2016 trade deadline, moving a few of their top young players for Andrew Miller, who dominated in the postseason.  If not for his no-trade clause, they also would’ve acquired catcher Jonathan Lucroy at the deadline.  With incumbent 1B/DH Mike Napoli potentially leaving via free agency, the Indians have an opportunity to improve at that position.

First, I will admit, this is a long shot.  Inter-division trades are very tricky, especially when they involve very good players.  However, the Indians certainly have a lot of young talent to offer, which could ease the sting of trading Abreu to a division rival.  Bobby Bradley is a big power, left-handed hitting 1B prospect.  He hit 29 HR at A+ Lynchburg in 2016; however, he also struck out 170 times in 485 at bats.  Francisco Mejia was slated to be the centerpiece going to Milwaukee for Jonathan Lucroy before Lucroy invoked his no-trade clause.  Mejia is a solid switch-hitting catcher with a strong bat and a big arm.  He is only 21 years old and should see time in AA this year.  You may have heard about his historic 50 game hitting streak this past season in the minors.  Yu-Cheng Chang is a shortstop prospect who has a quick bat and a good feel for hitting.  Although Tim Anderson will occupy shortstop for the foreseeable future, it doesn’t hurt to stockpile talent at premium positions.  Rob Kaminsky is an intriguing lefty.  He doesn’t overwhelm with his stuff, but has great command and is very steady.

Deal or No Deal: Though it is very intriguing, I don’t see the White Sox or Indians completing a deal of this magnitude with a division rival.  No Deal.

Option #3:  Texas Rangers

Who the White Sox may ask for:

IF Jurickson Profar – Rangers SS/2B/3B/1B, international signing 2009.

2B Andy Ibanez – Rangers #2 prospect, 2015 international signing.

SP Brett Martin – Rangers #8 prospect, 2014 4th round draft pick.

OF Jairo Beras – Rangers #11 prospect, 2012 international signing.

P Tyler Ferguson – Rangers #24 prospect, 2015 6th round draft pick.

The Rangers showed again at the 2016 trade deadline that they aren’t afraid to move talented prospects for the right Major League pieces when they included both their top positional prospect CF Lewis Brinson and their top pitching prospect Luis Ortiz as part of a package to acquire catcher Jonathan Lucroy from the Milwaukee Brewers.  The Rangers incumbent and perennially average 1B Mitch Moreland is departing via free agency, giving the Rangers an opportunity to upgrade.

Rangers top pitching prospect lefty Yohander Mendez is likely off limits, but the Rangers have plenty of other talent to get a deal done.  Also, I have no interest in Joey Gallo as a centerpiece.  Of course, he has 80 raw power, but it’s hard to hit a home run if you don’t make contact.  Given it is a small sample size, but the poor man has struck out 57% of his MLB at bats so far.  Hard pass.  The White Sox will likely ask for IF Jurickson Profar, who, after an injury plagued early career, played an important role with the Rangers last season.  He got off to a hot start, but was awful at the plate the second half of the season.  He has yet to put together a solid full season at the plate in his MLB career.  That being said, the Rangers still love him.  I would prefer the White Sox target Andy Ibanez, who does not have a clear path to the big leagues in Texas.  His only position is 2B, where Rougned Odor is firmly entrenched at the big league level.  Ibanez is a Cuban import and has been compared to Howie Kendrick – I think he is a little better than that.  Brett Martin is a very promising lefty in the Rangers system.  Arguably the best arm in the system, Martin needs to work on his command, but has natural deception in his delivery.  He will likely spend time at AA in 2017.  He finished the 2016 season with an incredible start in the A+ California League playoffs, throwing 7 no-hit innings, allowing only 1 walk, while striking out 15.  Jairo Beras is another intriguing international product.  He is a big framed kid with big raw power and a big arm.  Tyler Ferguson has a chance to be an intriguing bullpen arm.

Deal or No Deal:  I think there is a good fit here for both sides, and the Rangers will be motivated to get something done.  Deal.

Stay tuned for the next installment of White Sox “Deal or No Deal”:  Todd Frazier.  –DV

Which deal do you like?  Do you think there’s a different team who will make a play for Abreu?  Let us know in the comments below!

Twitter:  @DaVroomer

 

Photo:  EricEnfermero

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