Could Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu be the right combination of experience and performance for the Detroit Tigers?
The Detroit Tigers are in a difficult place with their first base and designated hitter slots–it’s possible Jose Abreu could solidify both positions in the lineup.
Unquestionably, the Detroit Tigers want Spencer Torkelson and first base to work; and it’s fair to assume he has an inside track at being the team’s opening-day first baseman in 2023. At the same time, after a disappointing rookie year, there is nothing wrong with making Torkelson win that first base job–and perhaps a proven veteran like Jose Abreu could provide a unique combination of mentorship and challenge to the second-year, former first-overall talent.
Abreu has no intention of slowing down, supplying a 4.2 bWAR showing for his 2022 age-35 season with the White Sox. Abreu started 128 of his 157 games at first base for Chicago, and even with a steep power decline compared to the year prior, his .304/.378/.446 line would present an obvious upgrade to the offense. Abreu’s 133 OPS+ would top the Tigers by a hefty margin (Eric Haase was the only member with an OPS+ over 100 in 2022 (115)).
In the event that Torkelson is ready to go and the Tigers feel comfortable with his duties, it would leave Abreu to fill in at the position or take over primary designated hitter duties for Miguel Cabrera, who is likely to see a continued reduction in games from his 112 total in 2022.
Abreu is sure to have suitors abound next season, even if the White Sox’s plan is to let Abreu walk, as the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Our friends over at Marlin Maniac feel Miami would be a good fit, but a team like the Giants and Padres would also be logical fits, with Brandon Belt and Josh Bell due to hit the market.
Abreu, additionally, is well-known to be a Tiger-killer, so there would be some addition by subtraction, too. Abreu has hit .342/.399/.568 against the Tigers across 146 games, with 46 doubles, 27 home runs, and 119 RBI.
The downside? Abreu will be entering his age-36 season, and it is fair to wonder if his power decline is a sign of things to come more than a blip on an otherwise-consistent radar. The Detroit Tigers unquestionably would like to remain athletic but adding Abreu, another base-clogger, alongside Miguel Cabrera may turn problematic.
It also remains to be seen what the long-term plan is for outfielder Austin Meadows, who can sufficiently hand left field duties currently, but most feel he is ultimately destined for a DH-type role on a competitive club.
It wouldn’t shock me if Abreu got a one-year, $20 million deal with an option for a second season. It is fair to wonder if that type of investment could be better allocated to someone who could be impactful on both sides of the ball as opposed to an expensive stop-gap like Abreu.