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Knock your Sox off? Abreu deal could make splash

South Siders discussing trade with Boston, but package would need to impress
MLB.com @philgrogers

CHICAGO -- Jose Abreu didn't appear in the original script for this offseason, but he could wind up being involved in a trade almost as big as the two the White Sox pulled off at the Winter Meetings a year ago, when they sent Chris Sale to the Red Sox and Adam Eaton to the Nationals.

If the White Sox can make arguably their toughest decision yet, that is.

CHICAGO -- Jose Abreu didn't appear in the original script for this offseason, but he could wind up being involved in a trade almost as big as the two the White Sox pulled off at the Winter Meetings a year ago, when they sent Chris Sale to the Red Sox and Adam Eaton to the Nationals.

If the White Sox can make arguably their toughest decision yet, that is.

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By my count, nine teams looking to contend in 2018 need either a first baseman or a designated hitter, and Abreu would be an upgrade for at least three others.

The Red Sox are exploring Rick Hahn's willingness to deal Abreu as an alternative to the super-sized commitments needed to acquire Giancarlo Stanton or J.D. Martinez, and you wonder if that will get the attention of the Yankees -- like it would have in the old days. The Rangers, Rockies and Cardinals are also strong fits.

Video: Castrovince, Justice on a potential Jose Abreu trade

But let's stick with the Red Sox. They were last in the American League in home runs in 2017. Their .749 OPS from Mitch Moreland, Hanley Ramirez, Sam Travis and three other first basemen last year ranked 13th in the AL, ahead of only the Angels and Mariners.

Abreu meanwhile did what he has done in all four seasons since he arrived in Chicago, remaining arguably the most consistent run producer in the game. Despite the young, unproven cast around him, he hit .304 with 33 home runs and 102 RBIs, joining Joe DiMaggio and Albert Pujols as the only players with 25/100 in each of their first four seasons.

That's impressive.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reports that talks are active between the White Sox and Red Sox on Abreu. The guess is the White Sox are probably asking the Red Sox for Andrew Benintendi, whom they had coveted coming out of the University of Arkansas in the 2015 Draft.

It's unlikely they'll get Benintendi without making this a package of Abreu that includes Avisail Garcia and maybe infielder Yolmer Sanchez (a breakout player last season who is blocked by Yoan Moncada), but Boston could part with a nice package outside of Benintendi.

They're reportedly dangling center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., but with three years' service time, he's not a fit for the rebuilding White Sox. Boston's inventory does include other players who could make an Abreu deal work.

Start with 22-year-old third baseman Michael Chavis, who hit 31 homers between Class A Advanced and Double-A last year but is blocked by Rafael Devers. Chavis was a standout in the Arizona Fall League, where he also played some first base.

Travis, the polished first baseman who joined Kyle Schwarber in helping Indiana reach the College World Series, is another interesting player, as is the late-blooming Bryce Brentz (.271/.334/.529 with 31 home runs at Pawtucket). Infielder Tzu-Wei Lin and any number of pitching prospects (Jalen Beeks, Mike Shawaryn and Tanner Houck among them) also command attention.

The White Sox are thrilled with the return they got from Boston for Sale -- Moncada, right-hander Michael Kopech, outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe and power reliever Victor Diaz -- but there's still enough talent left to make an Abreu deal work.

If the White Sox decide to trade Abreu, that is.

For Hahn, the Sale trade was a virtual no-brainer given Sale's status in the game, his frustration with the team's lack of success and the team's decision to rebuild. This one is trickier.

Video: Scott Merkin on Abreu's importance for White Sox

Among the factors working against a trade:

• Like Garcia, Abreu is under control for two more seasons. As a four-time arbitration-eligible player, he'll be by far the most highly paid player on the White Sox roster. But even with him, the Sox could have a payroll around $75 million. Financial strain is not a consideration.

• Abreu is a consummate professional who prides himself on representing his Cuban mother, as well as his organization. He's provided a steady presence through the early stages of the White Sox rebuild. He's also a mentor to Moncada, who played very well as a rookie last season. It would be difficult for Moncada to get to Arizona next spring and not have Abreu at the locker beside him.

• Abreu believes he can still be a contributor in 2020 and beyond, by which time the White Sox hope to be beginning a run of trips to the postseason. He is in the best shape of his life and makes no secret of his desire to spend his entire career on the South Side.

Hahn, however, believes it is too early to consider an extension. He points out that Abreu "is not on the doorstep of free agency," so why not let the plot line play out a little longer?

"Frankly, on both [Abreu and Garcia], the decision [about a possible extension] doesn't have to be made this offseason," Hahn said. "We have the luxury if we want to play it out another year, play it out another half year -- see if the performance continues, see if the trade market changes. That was the case when we sat here with [Jose] Quintana a year ago. Yes, he was a trade candidate, but the market didn't respond, so we had to wait."

As far as Abreu goes, the question seems likely to be called sooner, not later.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.

Chicago White Sox, Jose Abreu