September 17, 2014
Scoring runs was a deficiency for the White Sox in 2013, but it’s something manager Robin Ventura thinks they have addressed with the power-hitting duo of outfielder Avisail Garcia and first baseman Jose Abreu.
‘‘It’s steps in the right direction,’’ Ventura said Tuesday after the Sox formally introduced the 26-year-old Abreu, who signed a six-year, $68 million contract. ‘‘It’s not a stopgap thing. We’re helping us now and in the future.’’
The Sox acquired Garcia from the Detroit Tigers in a three-way deal at the trade deadline that sent right-hander Jake Peavy to the Boston Red Sox. Abreu, who defected from Cuba in August, signed the biggest free-agent contract in franchise history and will be part of the Sox’ long-term future, general manager Rick Hahn said.
‘‘When you add a player in the middle of the lineup who can produce at that level and has the professionalism he has, it can have a ripple effect and sets the tone for what you’re trying to accomplish,’’ Hahn said.
The signing could affect first baseman Paul Konerko’s decision about whether to return for another season. Hahn said he kept Konerko advised of the Sox’ interest in Abreu and called him after the parties reached agreement 10 days ago.
‘‘I will say this signing doesn’t preclude us from bring Paul back,’’ said Hahn, who indicated he and Konrerko will talk privately again next month.
If Konerko returns, Ventura said he would find playing time for him with Abreu and Adam Dunn, who will be in the final year of his contract next season.
‘‘If they are on the roster, you figure out a way to keep guys sharp and playing,’’ Ventura said.
Abreu’s contract breaks down as a $10 million signing bonus, $7 million each in 2014 and 2015, $10 million in 2016, $10.5 million in 2017, $11.5 million in 2018 and $12 million in 2019. The Sox will control his rights for the six seasons, but Abreu can opt for arbitration after three years, agent Barry Praver said.
Sox vice president Ken Williams helped scout Abreu, who played nine seasons with the Cuban national team and opened eyes in the United States during the World Baseball Classic last spring. He hit .360 with three homers and nine RBI in six games.
Hahn called the deal ‘‘a calculated risk we thought we had to take’’ on a player who has no pro experience.
‘‘Are you going to sit and do nothing, or are you going to do something to address your needs?’’ Hahn said. ‘‘At age 26, he’s entering the prime of his career and doesn’t cost us a draft pick.
‘‘We know we still have work to do.’’