Aiming to boost both fan support and a sagging offense, MLB Trade Rumors quotes ESPN’s Jim Bowden as saying that the Marlins are “expected to go all out on Abreu,” who could command a deal for 6 years and $54 million. Abreu, a right-handed first baseman, would balance out the left-handed-heavy lineup the Marlins currently sport.
Abreu is a young but big-time slugger. Just 26 years old, he had a slashline of .360/.385/.760 in six World Baseball Classic games, has broken the Cuban single-season home run record, and posted a ridiculous .453/.597/.986 in his age 23 season.
Of course, there is something to be said about the level of competition in Cuba. Many players are single-A level talents, and in recent years a lot of superstars have left the country in search of playing in the Major Leagues. Despite this, Abreu remains intriguing. A year-and-a-half ago, Jonah Keri wrote a great piece on Abreu over at grantland.com. In it, he talks with Clay Davenport, the co-founder of Baseball Prospectus, who adjusted Abreu’s 2011 numbers to account for A-ball competition. In Keri’s words, Abreu’s adjusted stats “blew [Miguel] Cabrera out of the water.”
Keri also talked with David Forst, the assistant general manager for the Oakland Athletics, who clearly have some kind of a beat on Cuban players given their scouting and signing of Yoenis Cespedes. Forst told Keri that based on the little that clubs could see of Abreu from international competition, “there are legitimate comparisons to Ryan Howard.”
Keep in mind, this was February 2012 Ryan Howard, who was coming off 6 straight years of at least 30 home runs and 108 RBI, and not August 2013 Ryan Howard.
Certainly, a guy with the power to knock 30 to 40 homers would look incredible in a Marlins lineup largely void of power. But the Marlins’ potential signing of Abreu would cause another issue to arise: Logan Morrison.
Abreu is not known as an athlete. He’s a first baseman, but barely. People who have watched him say he’s better suited as a designated hitter. So it wouldn’t really be an option to put him in the outfield. Logan Morrison, for all the disappointment last season, has shown that when he’s healthy he can produce. He’s got a .273/.368/.441 slash line this year. According to reports, Morrison impressed head honcho Jeffrey Loria with the way he handled last season’s tumultuous trades, contrary to Giancarlo Stanton‘s behavior. And we all know that ingratiating yourself with Loria is a surefire way to keep a job (see: Helms, Wes).
So what would the Marlins do with Morrison? They could move him back to left field. The issue, of course, is that the Marlins have too many gifted outfielders, between Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick and Marcell Ozuna and – oh yeah – that Stanton guy, who right now looks like the worst of the lot of them. And playing the outfield was devastating on Morrison’s body. And he was a butcher out there. So that’s probably not a realistic option.
Which leaves a trade the only real option. What kind of value the Marlins could get for Morrison remains to be seen, as they haven’t shopped him in the past, but it’s not likely to be more than a mid-level prospect or two. And of course, the Marlins would likely negate whatever goodwill they drum up by signing a Cuban superstar by trading a visible face of the franchise, someone who has endeared himself to the community by way of baseball camps and Twitter updates.
This would leave the Marlins with quite a problem – especially considering no one’s really seen Abreu play against a high level of competition. My opinion? Let someone else overpay for Abreu. Take the $54 million and reinvest it in locking up some of the current young studs on the team, who are much closer to a sure thing than Abreu. Buy out Fernandez’s arbitration years. Give Christian Yelich a Longoriaesque contract. Or take the money and invest it in something the club really needs to compliment its lineup – like current Braves catcher and soon-to-be-free-agent Brian McCann. That will go much farther with the fan base – and likely with results on the field – than simply signing a guy because of where he’s from.