White Sox chase contention status in AL Central with Abreu signing

The only free agents last winter whose deals topped Jose Abreu’s $68M with the White Sox were Zack Greinke, Josh Hamilton, Anibal Sanchez and B.J. Upton, an indication that the White Sox are very serious about getting back to contending status in the American League Central.

We all get it. They were, next to the Astros, the worst offensive team in the league last season, and with the acquisition of Avisail Garcia in the Jake Peavy deal and the signing of Abreu have added two corner power righthanded bats in a home run ballpark. We also appreciate that unless they jump in on Mike Napoli, there isn’t a lot of hope on the free agent market.

The question now is: how will his bat speed translate to major league pitching? He isn’t Yasiel Puig or Yoenis Cespedes, whose tools were well known, who came with big time bat speed. The scouts who got the Dodgers Puig and the Athletics Cespedes went to scout Abreu and came back with those questions. “I just didn’t see a swing that translates well to pitching in this country,” said a scout for one of those two teams. “His power is undeniable. But if he is a .240 hitter who doesn’t get on base more than 30 percent of the time, what do you have? He can’t play anywhere but first, and that may be a stretch, especially in a couple of seasons.”

One general manager of a team that went to $40M felt “he was a good gamble for the American League because of the power, but we, like many others, worry about the swing, the bat speed and the ability to hit the fastball.” Understand, the Cuban professional league does not feature a lot of velocity.

Hopefully for the White Sox, Abreu works out and hits 35-40 homers in their homer-friendly ballpark. It’s Chicago, a market baseball needs. They have a very bright general manager in Rick Hahn, a model owner in Jerry Reinsdorf, and as one NL executive said yesterday, “they may have overpaid, but they have one of the half-dozen thinnest farm systems in the game and Abreu doesn’t cost them a draft choice. Unlike Puig, who is much younger, he’s going to play next season at 27, so he probably needs to produce quickly.”