Jose Abreu carries on Cuban tradition with White Sox
BY TONI GINNETTI Staff Reporter October 29, 2013 1:12PM
Cuban slugger Jose Abreu smiles during a news conference where the Chicago White Sox announced a six-year, $68 million deal with Abreu Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Minnie Minoso sat quietly Tuesday listening to the White Sox newest free agent acquisition, Jose Abreu, talk about his dream of playing major league baseball and why the coveted Cuban slugger chose the Sox over other bidding teams.
``It’s very pleasant because someone will be here when I’m going,’’ the 87-year-old Minoso said. ``I came here 60 years ago and now when I go, someone else will be here.’’
Abreu, 26, will be with the Sox for the long term, general manager Rick Hahn said as he introduced Abreu, a power-hitting first baseman signed to a six-year, $68 million deal ten days ago.
It is the largest contract ever negotiated by the Sox.
``We view him for the long term, and we see him as a fixture in the middle of the lineup,’’ 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.’’
But the signing could have an immediate impact on the roster in a different way in how it might impact veteran captain Paul Konerko’s future.
Hahn said he kept Konerko in the loop about Abreu, telling him in September Abreu was on the Sox radar and speaking again to him when Abreu signed.
Free agent Konerko has said he won’t make a decision about playing another season until next month.
``I will say this signing doesn’t preclude us from bring Paul back,’’ Hahn said, adding the two will talk next month ``and we’ll keep things confidential.’’
The Sox out-bid several teams for the slugging first baseman, who played on the Cuban National team for nine years but opened eyes in the U. S. during the World Baseball Classic when he hit .360 with three home runs and nine RBI in six games.
Sox vice president Ken Williams scouted Abreu.
``The power is obvious but more than that is we need a good, solid hitter, a guy who will drive the ball to all fields,’’ Williams said. ``It’s consistent with making us better now but also in the future,’’ he said.
Hahn acknowledged the deal has ``risks’’ because Abreu never has played professionally.
``It’s really a matter of choosing 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.
``It’s a calculated risk we thought we had to take,’’ he said. ``We know we still have work to do.’’
Abreu said he was drawn to the Sox because of fellow Cubans Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo and because of the team’s history with Cubans like Minoso.
``I feel comfortable coming to the Sox,’’ he said, Hahn adding they will help Abreu’s ``transition’’ to a new country and the majors.
Abreu is the White Sox 17th Cuban player.
Under terms of the deal, Abreu gets a $10 million signing bonus and will be paid $7 million in 2014 and 2015. He will get $10 million in 2016, $10.5 million in 2017, $11.5 million in 2016 and $12 million in 2019.
The Sox will control his rights for the six seasons but Abreu’s agent, Barry Praver, said he could opt for arbitration after three years to go through that salary process.
Praver said five teams were in the final bidding offering in the $60 million range.
``It was his decision to make the final choice,’’ Praver said.
``So much has been said about my power, but more than hitting home runs, my mind at the plate is to do what my team needs,’’ Abreu said through translator Lou Hernandez, the Sox director of community relations.
Abreu left Cuba this summer, but he is not able to talk yet about the circumstances of his exit or about his family, who include his mother Daisy and father Jose Oriol still in Cuba. He currently is living in Miami.