Jose Abreu will soon be playing his games at the cell phone field on Chicago’s south side, six years’ worth. The White Sox reportedly beat out Boston and Houston for the Cuban slugger, who got a $68 million deal. His contract was significantly greater than that of Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig, who have certainly set the bar high for Abreu. There are still plenty of questions for the hefty 1B/DH, though. Will he hit? Will he field? Is he worthy of that kind of money? 6 years too long? All fair questions, I’d say. But here’s one question that crossed my mind after hearing of the Abreu signing: What the heck happened to the Giants?
In his annual end-of-season press conference, Brian Sabean told us not to expect a “big splash” in the international free agent market, despite the fact that there are some potential impact players available again this offseason. Next thing you know, Sabean and his posse (Pat Burrell and Felipe Alou) are on a plane bound for the Dominican to get a better look at Abreu and fellow Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero (who was very close to signing with the Dodgers, but is still on the market). What did the posse learn about Abreu? They didn’t like his glove. That’s the message I took from a few of the Giants beat guys on twitter, anyway. I thought it a bit odd though… the dude wasn’t known for his glove in the first place!
So… if the Giants didn’t like Abreu’s talents, and don’t plan to make an international splash, then why did CSN release a post calling them (the Giants) favorites to land the guy? Why did Baggs’ say he expected Sabean and Co. to be “all in” on Abreu, fighting to the finish to sign him, when I asked about the conflicting reports? Now, only a week removed, the Giants weren’t even among the final three. Did the bopper want too much money? $60-70 million is a hefty price tag for a guy with no MLB experience, but not an unreasonable one in my opinion. He’s got 30-40 HR potential, and that doesn’t come cheap. But that’s the game of baseball these days, and somebody was going to pony up the money. The Giants knew what it would cost all along. Did they lowball him? I haven’t found any reports saying they even made him an offer.
If, in fact the Giants really were all in on Abreu, and they truly were not among his final three suitors, I think that’s a pretty big misfire on the organization’s part. If he really wasn’t ever a priority, and all the flights and reports were smokescreens, so be it. In that case, I would like to see them throw a dollar amount out there to Guerrero. To pluck him from the Dodgers would be a big statement for an organization that was left in the dust by its rival this year. Do I think it will happen? Honestly, I don’t. The Dodgers had a 5-year, $32 million offer on the table, according to MLB Trade Rumors. I don’t see the Giants giving an international free agent that kind of money to come in without a defined role… unless of course they are looking to move Pablo, but I really don’t find that likely either. Sabean did say that he wants to bring in more depth. He didn’t say that he wanted to bring in someone to unseat one of his everyday infielders. I’d say a smaller offer (say 2-3 years at $5-7 million per) to a utility guy like Omar Infante would be a much more likely play for Sabean.
Abreu and Guerrero are the top Cuban hitters on the market. They aren’t the top talent in the international water though. I’ll give that distinction to Masahiro Tanaka, Japanese sensation. Tanaka has a big fastball and a signature split as his out pitch. I’ve read a few reports calling him the next Yu Darvish, a few others saying his split won’t play in the bigs. How can scouts be that far apart on him? Doesn’t make much sense to me, but I do know this: Iwakuma is rocking the AL West out in Seattle with a nasty splitter. He doesn’t throw as hard as Tanaka, and he’s quite a few years older. I think whoever gets Tanaka will have a stud on their hands, but that’s just me. A lot of people sold Hyun-jin Ryu short last season (a few even gave him a middle-relief tag), and look what he did in LA.
If I’m Sabean, I’m throwing a decent offer at the righty. If you snag him, you’ve got 3 very good starters on your hands. Bumgarner, Cain, Tanaka… that’s a deep group. Problem is, the Yankees have their sights set on him as well, and it sounds like they’re serious. Maybe the pecking order in the American League has changed somewhat, but I still find the Yankees as a team who can bring in any player they want. If they’re serious about somebody, that’s bad news for the 29 other clubs. $300 million payroll next year? Give me a break! Personally, I don’t think the Giants have a chance on the Tanaka front, nor is it Sabean’s nature to get in a bidding war.
So, it would seem to me that Sabes was telling the truth (as he often does) about the international market. No big splashes, just a lot of evaluations. Barring some unforeseen development on the Guerrero front, I’d say the Giants are out of the foreign water at this point.