José Abreu high on Cubs’ wish list this offseason
After a season that produced less-than-stellar numbers from the first base position (26th in MLB with a .652 OPS), the Cubs appear to be looking to solve that problem by signing one of the top offensive players at that position in baseball over the past nine years.
José Abreu will declare free agency over the next few days. The White Sox star slugger and 2020 American League MVP will have a robust group of teams interested in his services for 2023 and beyond after another fine season. Sources indicate that the Cubs will express strong interest in Abreu once he becomes a free agent.
The numbers game caught up with Abreu during his tenure with the White Sox. Arguably the best free agent signing in White Sox history, Abreu at age 35 finds himself stuck between emerging young sluggers Eloy Jiménez and Andrew Vaughn. The White Sox want Jiménez at DH most of the time in 2023 and Vaughn is a natural first baseman having played out of position in the outfield the past two seasons. That leaves little room for the talented Abreu on the South Side.
The Cubs 2023 roster appears to be the perfect spot open for Abreu to land. Having made $118 million over his past two contracts, Abreu signed a 3-year deal before the 2020 season. This time, a long-term commitment is not expected — or likely desired — by the still-productive-but-unassuming Cuban native. A 2-year agreement may be satisfactory for both sides.
Abreu would solve numerous short term issues for the North Siders. First and foremost, the Cubs have no apparent first baseman from the farm system guaranteed to step in and lock down the position. Matt Mervis’ meteoric rise from the lower minor leagues was impressive but he may need a bit more time in Triple-A before the Cubs would be comfortable in turning over the position to him full time. The 24-year-old left handed hitter just won the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars MVP and could still make the Cubs major league roster at some point in 2023. When he does, he could switch between DH and first base with a veteran like Abreu.
In addition to his ability to play every day into his mid-30s, Abreu’s leadership makes him an ideal fit with the Cubs in the short term. The Cubs are in need of offensive firepower in 2023 and Abreu would certainly help in that area.
The Cubs could use the credibility and production from an All-Star-caliber player like Abreu as they look to continue to grow with young pitchers and position players. He has also been one of the most durable players in baseball, having missed just 18 games over the past four seasons.
Abreu slipped in one power area in 2022 as his usual 30 home run output was cut down to 15 long balls. However, the all-important 0PS number was still strong, as he posted an .824 OPS which was still way above league average of .707 but down from his career .860 OPS.
The 2014 AL Rookie of the Year is a 3-time All-Star and 3-time Silver Slugger award winner. He has averaged 31 home runs and 110 RBI per 162 games played over his 9-year career.