Jose Abreu is about to become the latest Cuban baseball star to hit big money in the major leagues. According to FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal, the 26-year-old first baseman is finalizing terms on a contract with the Chicago White Sox that will pay him $68 million over six years.
This will be the largest first-time deal ever given to an international player, surpassing the six-year, $56 million package that Yu Darvish received from the Rangers. Among Cuban signees, Abreu's contract is worth $26 million more than the seven-year, $42 million deal that Yasiel Puig signed with the Dodgers.
Earlier Thursday, MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez reported that Abreu had narrowed his list of prospective teams down to the Astros, Red Sox and White Sox. The Rangers, Giants and Marlins also showed strong interest in signing the first baseman. Yet later in the day, both Rangers beat writer T.R. Sullivan and CBSSports' Danny Knobler wrote that Texas was making a late push for Abreu. However, it appears that the Rangers weren't willing to match or surpass the $68 million offer from the White Sox.
Paul Konerko is in the final year of his contract and is expected to retire. Abreu will replace him at first base. For anyone raising an eyebrow over the White Sox agreeing to pay $68 million to someone who's never played in the major leagues, consider the alternatives. The free agent market for first basemen is stocked with aging players like Kendrys Morales, Mike Napoli and James Loney. Not only does Abreu have far more upside, but he might just be better than any available free agents.
This past season in Cuban Serie Nacional, Abreu compiled a .382/.535/.735 slash average with 13 home runs, 36 RBI and 37 walks in 42 games. The schedule was shortened due to the World Baseball Classic. In the WBC, Abreu hit .360 (9-for-25) with three homers and nine RBI in six games.