The first base market is typically weak these days, but between current Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli and the Cuban-born international free agent Jose Dariel Abreu, things are looking up in the winter of 2013-2014. From the sounds of it, the latter will be far more expensive than the former, as ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted that Abreu is expected to sign for $70 million, presumably over five or six years.
We might already have an indication of where the Red Sox are leaning as well, as Olney reports that the White Sox, Astros, and Rangers are considered the leading teams to sign Abreu. The Astros have plenty of room to boost their payroll, and have already stated they expect to significantly raise it this winter -- acquiring a potentially productive bat like Abreu's could be huge for them. The Rangers have Mitch Moreland at first, and that hasn't been cutting it, so Abreu fits an obvious need on their roster, especially if they let their greatest power source, free agent Nelson Cruz, walk. The White Sox have brought on plenty of Cuban free agents in previous years with various levels of success, so their interest in Abreu makes sense, especially as they look to possibly move on from Paul Konerko as a player, with the possibility of having him join the club in another capacity down the road.
There are scouts who think Abreu could turn into a serious power hitting force of nature at first base, and also those who see him as something like Dayan Viciedo, a low-average, power-only type. Plenty think that he'll settle in as the kind of player Napoli is now, though, at least in terms of power and above-average production -- Napoli's patience is a bit tough to project from someone who hasn't seen MLB pitching -- and that would certainly be useful at the reported price. The bat has to work, though, because he won't bring much, if anything, with the glove or on the bases.
The Red Sox worked Abreu out back in September, and there were whispers they wanted him and Mike Napoli, with Abreu eventually replacing David Ortiz at designated hitter down the road. It's hard to believe Abreu would be into that, though, considering he can likely sign a big-league deal with immediate big-league at-bats in a number of places.
If Abreu is going to be making somewhere between $11 and $14 million a year on a five- or six-year contract, the Sox certainly have the money, and they do lack in viable first base options on the farm. If Napoli is also in the mix, though, it's just hard to see the Sox ending up with both -- it's one or the other, but luckily, given Napoli's play at the plate and with the leather, there likely isn't a wrong answer here, so long as the Sox end up with one of the two. As they can submit a qualifying offer to Napoli and likely thin out his market by attaching draft pick compensation to him, the chances are very good they can do just that.
Read more Red Sox:
- Red Sox know Miguel Cabrera's weakness, and it is fastballs
- Is Justin Verlander right about Shane Victorino and HBP?
- John Lackey: Boston's Mr. Consistency
- ALCS 2013: David Ortiz grand slam GIFs
- Baseball America names Xander Bogaerts the #1 International League prospect