The Nationals 2013 season may have come to a close, and it's never too early to start discussing offseason moves. And Baseball America brought up a fascinating one this morning. Ben Badler of BA believes that the Nats are among the top five teams who could sign Jose Abreu this offseason.
At this point, you may be thinking, "who is Jose Abreu?"
Abreu is a highly-touted, 26-year-old first baseman who is just the most recent Cuban defector to be declared eligible for MLB free agency. Baseball scouts have been able to log more than 300 at-bats from Abreu, which is rare for a Cuban defector, and the results are impressive. In the most recent Serie Nacional, the Cuban baseball league, season, Abreu posted an impressive .382/.535/.735 slash line with 13 homers in just 42 games. He also walked 37 times while striking out 21 times.
Badler placed the Nats as the number four team who could conceivably be interested in Abreu, ahead of the White Sox and behind the Rangers, Red Sox, and Pirates. He cites the team's relative strength going into 2014 despite a letdown 2013 campaign as reason to go for this big-time prospect. He also believes that first base, Abreu's position, is a place where the Nats could stand to upgrade considering Adam LaRoche's rough 2013 season. Further, LaRoche is entering the final guaranteed year of his contract.
On the flip side, there are other factors to consider. The Nats have had limited success in the international market in the last several years, starting with the Smiley Gonzalez scandal, which ended Jim Bowden's tenure as the General Manager. Another big international signing was Yunesky Maya, who hasn't done anything for the Nationals except provide some organizational depth at a pretty expensive cost for someone who's made absolutely no positive impact on the big club.
Another major factor will certainly be money. To compare against other Cuban defectors in recent history, the Dodgers signed Yasiel Puig last season to a seven-year, $42 million deal, and two years ago, the Athletics signed Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year, $36 million deal. Some expect Abreu to command as much as $60 million, but he doesn't have the defensive impact like Puig and Cespedes do, as one scout told ESPN's Jerry Crasnick.
This will be an interesting story to watch in the coming weeks as the Nats don't have many places to improve on paper, but if they decide to make a big splash this offseason, pursuing Abreu could certainly be a place to do just that.