While the Texas Rangers are in the midst of a highly contested pennant chase, it is never too early to look ahead toward next season. Earlier this week, rumors circled that Cuban slugger Jose Abreu has fled his home country and will attempt to sign with a major-league team this offseason. The 26-year-old first baseman will enter the league as a free agent once he establishes citizenship in another country amongst a few other legalities that he must follow. This process generally takes a few months.
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Once MLB clears the first baseman to sign with a team, expect bidding on his services to be intense. Standing at 6′-3″ and 250 pounds, Jose Abreu has posted some eye-popping offensive numbers during his 10 seasons in Cuba. For his career, Abreu has amassed an average of .342 while slugging .621 and clubbing 184 home runs. Abreu seems to be maturing as a hitter, evidenced by the fact he has hit 123 of his 184 career home runs since 2010.
Don’t be surprised if you hear Texas as a possible landing spot for the Cuban first baseman. Recently, the Rangers have positioned themselves to be big players in the international market by acquiring players such as Yu Darvish, Jurickson Profar and fellow Cuban Leonys Martin. The Rangers may be interested in Abreu’s offensive ability which could serve as an upgrade over current first baseman Mitch Moreland. Moreland has shown small glimpses of brilliance in his short career, but his inability to maintain a high level of play consistently may have the Rangers looking elsewhere for production. Outfielder Nelson Cruz and catcher A.J. Pierzynski are both free agents after the season, and if the Rangers are unable to resign the duo, a considerable amount of power will be walking away from their lineup. If the Rangers once again want to make a big splash in the international market, they should expect Abreu to not come cheaply.
In the last several seasons, MLB has seen an influx of Cuban-born players fleeing their home country to play professional baseball. Some notable names on this list include players such as Yoenis Cespedes, Kendrys Morales, Alexei Ramirez and Dodger sensation Yasiel Puig. Teams are hopeful that Jose Abreu’s abilities will carry over and allow him to be successful in the U.S. If you were to look at Abreu’s offensive numbers over the course of the last three seasons compared to Cespedes’ three years prior to leaving for the U.S., the stats are pretty similar. While Abreu hit .393 while bashing 47 doubles and driving in 252 RBIs, Cespedes hit.324, with 79 home runs and 242 RBIs. Given the success that Cespedes had immediately for the Oakland Athletics, don’t be surprised if major-league owners are ready to open up their checkbooks for Abreu.
Headed into the offseason, it may be very hard to find a power hitter for a reasonable price. If the Rangers were to explore the free-agency market, more of the notable players, such as Robinson Cano and Carlos Beltran, will be expensive to acquire and also would not provide a solution for the team at either DH or first base. The team also could explore some trade options, but this also could provide to be very costly as well. Any team that is willing to trade an impact bat will no doubt ask for some of Texas’ top prospects. Abreu could be acquired without committing hundreds of millions of dollars in salary or giving up the upper echelon of the farm system.
The thought of Jose Abreu playing in hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark in Arlington is very enticing, but the Rangers must decide how much money they are willing to spend. While that number may be unknown, rest assured they are not the only ones asking themselves that question headed into the offseason.