Chicago White Sox: Jose Abreu Outshining Todd Frazier on Trade Market

Jose Abreu is reportedly drawing more trade interest than Chicago White Sox teammate Todd Frazier. It’s not too hard to understand why.

The Chicago White Sox have been one of the most active teams in baseball this offseason. Fully committing to a rebuilding plan, they traded their most valuable asset in starting pitcher Chris Sale to the Red Sox. They followed that move up with another deal that sent outfielder Adam Eaton to the Nationals.

Those two transactions alone netted the ChiSox a bevy of talented prospects, including two of the more highly-touted names in recent years in Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito. While the immediate future is looking fairly grim on the South Side of Chicago, the long-term picture is rapidly brightening.

The White Sox aren’t expected to stop here, though. They still have a few more veterans who should fetch solid returns on the trade market. Two of them are the biggest bats in the ChiSox lineup, third baseman Todd Frazier and first baseman Jose Abreu. However, rumors and rumblings have been relatively scarce in regard to both players. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe provides some clarity:

“While Chicago has received more interest in Jose Abreu, there have been ‘due diligence’ phone calls on Frazier because of his righthanded [sic] power. Frazier had 40 homers and 98 RBIs last season. The White Sox would like to move him for a prospect or two, but the fact Frazier can be a free agent after next season may be holding back his market.”

Cafardo’s report makes sense when you consider the pros and cons of each slugger. If you want brute power, Frazier is probably your man. He finished sixth in the AL home run chase with 40 long balls, and has averaged 35 homers per year over the last three seasons. However, he comes with many of the pitfalls of an all-out power hitter. He struck out a career-high 24.5 percent of the time last year and also posted full-season career lows in batting average (.225) and on-base percentage (.302).

Due to turn 31 years old next month, Frazier is also nearing decline territory. Furthermore, he’s a free agent after the 2017 campaign, meaning whoever trades for him would be doing so as a rental. All those home runs are tempting in a league that prizes offensive firepower, but the potential disadvantages weigh just as heavily. If you want a similar player without the cost of prospects, why not consider Mark Trumbo, who at this point might actually end up signing a relatively palatable deal?

Abreu gets the edge over Frazier by contract status alone. He is under team control through 2019, having opted into arbitration earlier this offseason for the final three seasons of his deal with the White Sox. Abreu will be 30 later this month, so he doesn’t maintain much of an age advantage over his teammate. The Cuban import has played just three MLB seasons, but he made his debut in 2014 at age 27.

Abreu burst onto the scene that year, capturing Rookie of the Year honors with a .317/.383/.581 slash line, 36 home runs and 107 RBI. Unfortunately, he hasn’t quite scaled those heights again in either of the following two seasons.

In 2015 he slashed .290/.347/.502 with 30 homers and 101 RBI, and last year he posted a .293/.353/.468 line while swatting 25 long balls and driving in 100 runs.

He has certainly remained a very productive bat in the lineup, but other teams might be wary that the downward trend could continue. While Abreu is a undoubtedly a better all-around package than Frazier, clubs presumably don’t value him like they would have a couple years ago, which Chicago will have to keep in mind.

It makes sense for the White Sox to at least unload Frazier before he hits free agency, but they don’t have to rush into anything on either player. They could wait until next season’s trade deadline, or even longer in Abreu’s case, until they find a deal they’re comfortable with. As the remaining free agent sluggers come off the board, a team in need of offense could start to feel the heat and get serious with the ChiSox.

But for now, it’s clear that Abreu is the more coveted piece, and the White Sox will be careful to ensure they receive good value in return for a player of his talents and years of team control. This will be a team to watch for the duration of the winter and beyond as they continue stacking their farm system.

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