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Jose Abreu skepticism sounds like Yasiel Puig skepticism

Oct 18, 2013, 11:19 AM EDT

jose dariel abreu getty Getty Images

Jose Abreu‘s reported $68 million deal with the White Sox isn’t even official yet and there are already lots of prominent media members questioning whether Chicago over-committed to an “untested” player with some question marks attached.

I have no idea. I’ve seen Abreu play a couple times on television, I’ve read the same write-ups everyone else has, and I’ve looked at his incredible numbers in Cuba. But that’s about it. However, it’s worth noting that a year ago plenty of people were mocking the Dodgers for signing another Cuban defector, Yasiel Puig, for $42 million.

For instance, here’s what Ben Badler of Baseball America–who’s my pick for the best writer covering international prospects–wrote about the Puig deal in June of 2012:

The Dodgers appear to have made a statement with an expensive Cuban signing, but the message they sent across baseball has mostly elicited the same response: What are the Dodgers thinking? …

The question around baseball is how the Dodgers could justify awarding such a lavish contract to a player who scouts considered more of a solid than a spectacular prospect. … One executive called the deal “crazy.” Several others were floored by the reported contract terms. “I don’t know,” said one international director, echoing several of his colleagues. “I don’t know what’s going on in Dodger land. They must have seen something.”

Those who have seen Puig seem lukewarm on his talent. … He is an interesting prospect with raw talent, but for several teams, he wouldn’t have even been a first-round pick if he were in the draft.

A year later signing Puig to a long-term deal that pays $6 million per season looks like an incredible bargain. Abreu isn’t Puig, obviously, and perhaps he’ll prove to be a huge bust, but there’s also a nearly guaranteed heaping of heavy skepticism that comes attached to basically any big-money international signing. Last offseason Edwin Jackson got $52 million, Nick Swisher got $56 million, and B.J. Upton got $75 million, so $68 million isn’t exactly superstar money in free agency.

  1. jm91rs - Oct 18, 2013 at 11:25 AM

    It will be fun to see if Puig is the exception or the general rule. If scouts thought he’d be solid but not spectacular, and all they had to base that on was his play against fellow Cubans, maybe some of the Cubans that were even better than Puig will play as well or better than he has.

    • eightyraw - Oct 18, 2013 at 11:29 AM

      Puig had a showcase for scouts, but he had been out of competitive baseball for over a year and was considerably out of shape.

      • paperlions - Oct 18, 2013 at 2:43 PM

        Yep, that was the only time most teams saw him in person and in a controlled setting. He was fat and rusty….so many teams decided to pass…or at least, to not go heavy.

  2. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 18, 2013 at 11:32 AM

    So you’re intentionally going to leave out all the actual criticisms of Puig (cf that ellipsis in the final quoted paragraph) to enable this strained analogy. Well done!

    • unclemosesgreen - Oct 18, 2013 at 12:14 PM

      Badler went on to report that Puig would probably be reporting to Class A.

      The anti-Abreu signing criticism sounds exactly like the anti-Puig signing criticisms. As analogies go this is spot on. What are you smoking, Church?

  3. cur68 - Oct 18, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    I hope he breaks even more unwritten rules than Puig. Then I hope Brian McCann attempts to school him on it. Then I hope Abreu beats the snot out of McCann. That’s the only Abreu scouting report I’m interested in.

    • skids003 - Oct 18, 2013 at 12:45 PM

      I think McCann would take him.

      • ilovegspot - Oct 18, 2013 at 1:41 PM

        Puig would anilate McCann. He’s the bigest fastest dude in MLB. He would be a linebacker or running back if he grew up here.

  4. losanginsight - Oct 18, 2013 at 12:27 PM

    Obviously Balder has no clue about what he’s talking about. Puig has already made an impact in the MLB and is helping the Dodgers get to a World Series.

    • eightyraw - Oct 18, 2013 at 12:45 PM

      Badler is the preeminent source for international free agents. Feel free to judge him on a snippet of an article where he summarizes the opinions of his sources.

      • ilovegspot - Oct 18, 2013 at 1:42 PM

        Badler prove with his assesment of Puig that he is flawed at his so called expertise.

      • eightyraw - Oct 18, 2013 at 1:55 PM

        Read the article. Badler makes no assessment of Puig at all. Any assessments are those of his sources.

  5. APBA Guy - Oct 18, 2013 at 12:34 PM

    I think the Keith Law concerns are more valid. Rather than draw a parallel to Puig or Cespedes, Law comments that Abreu’s relatively slow bat speed makes him vulnerable to MLB quality hard stuff inside. He also explains that clubs have a lot of money sloshing around, and that this might not be too risky a deal because of that, as Abreu’s power is undoubted.

    • nelsonsaint - Oct 18, 2013 at 3:19 PM

      The White Sox could sign Babe Ruth and Jesus Christ and Keith Law would criticize the moves.

  6. chiadam - Oct 18, 2013 at 1:13 PM

    The Puig deal has nothing to do with the criticism of this deal. Abreu is not a special athlete. Puig is. Abreu cannot play defense. Puig can. Abreu might not be able to hit a major league fastball. Puig certainly can. Abreu has no protection (as of now) in the Sox lineup. Puig does. And Abreu will do nothing to address the same issues the Sox continue to ignore (OBP, defense, speed). And Abreu got twice as much as Puig. That deserves some criticism.

    • paperlions - Oct 18, 2013 at 2:46 PM

      But they are both Cuban and being doubted, is that all that matters? It must be, otherwise this would sound the the skepticism around Dice-K or Darvish.

  7. jkaflagg - Oct 18, 2013 at 6:16 PM

    Key factor is that scouts have watched and analyzed Abreu across several seasons, whereas Puig had relatively little exposure before his defection……Applaud the Sox for putting up the $$$ to try and improve the team, hope it works out for them.

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