This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.
Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu is considered one of the top international talents in baseball right now, and his power-hitting has drawn interest from many MLB teams. Abreu has officially been cleared to sign with a MLB team, and, apparently, the San Francisco Giants are the favorites to sign him.
Giants GM Brian Sabean and special assistant Felipe Alou scouted him in Dominican Republic, so they’re clearly interested in Abreu. The Giants are certainly intrigued by his power-hitting. In the Cuban National Series league, Abreu established himself as a 30-homer hitter, and he even flirted with a couple Triple Crowns.
During the World Baseball Classic in March, Abreu hit .360 with three homers and nine RBI’s in six games. The Giants could use his power bat in the middle of their lineup, especially since they finished second-to-last in the NL with total home runs in the 2013 season with 107.
Abreu’s strongest asset is his power. Defensively, he’s a little below average, he doesn’t have much speed, and he’s not known to be very patient at the plate. Abreu has also shown weaknesses in hitting inside pitches and hitting breaking balls.
He’s 6-foot-2 and 258 pounds and not super athletic. Scouts have said he’s trimmed down recently and has started to condition more though. However, since he’s not very athletic naturally, it’s unlike that he could be moved to third base or a corner outfield spot. This is especially troubling since that’s most likely the move the Giants would want to make if they signed him.
Brandon Belt had a breakout year this past season. He hit .289, and he had 17 home runs, 67 RBI’s, a .360 OBP, .481 slugging percentage, and a .841 OPS (ranked fourth among NL first basemen behind Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto, and Freddie Freeman). After making some adjustments to his swing, Belt started to live up to his immense potential.
Defensively, Belt is one of the best first basemen in the NL. He will win many Gold Gloves in his career…if he stays at first base. If the Giants signed Abreu, that would mean Belt would have to move to left field.
Belt is smart on defense and has great instincts, so he could play left field adequately but maybe not as effortlessly as he does at first base. It’s unclear if he could effectively play left field over the course of a whole season, and, as mentioned before, Abreu can pretty much only play at first base.
Abreu is just adequate defensively, so it would make more sense for the Giants to keep Belt at first base. Unfortunately, this means that the Giants probably can’t find a place for Abreu on their roster.
It might make the most sense for the Giants to stay away from Abreu for a few reasons. First of all, even though the Giants could use more power, they don’t necessarily need another right-handed, middle-of-the-order bat, especially after re-signing Hunter Pence.
Second, signing Abreu is going to require a hefty contract. Abreu will most likely command a larger deal than Yasiel Puig’s seven-year $42 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Some scouts have said that he could even land a $60 million deal, and he could possibly make $10 million per year. The Giants don’t need to add any more large contracts to their payroll, especially one for a player who might not fit in, defensively, with this team.
“I like him fine, but I wouldn’t sell the ranch to get him,” a scout with international expertise said. “The problem is, Cespedes and Puig can go 0-for-4 and they can still win you a game because they can run and throw. Abreu isn’t that guy. He’s more an Edgar Martinez-type. He has to hit or you’ve got nothing. He’s all bat.”
Third, although his power-hitting is intriguing, he still has plenty to work on, as mentioned before. He could become more diligent with his work habits and conditioning. Thankfully, he doesn’t have the same diva personality that Puig does. In fact, scouts say Abreu is more grounded and genuine.
There are many pros and cons to trying to sign Abreu. The Giants have to decide whether or not they’re comfortable with Belt moving to left field, and that will help clarify if they should sign Abreu or not. Abreu has an extremely high ceiling, but it could cost the Giants defensively if they decide to sign him.