Padres Have Jose Abreu As “A Top Priority”

The Padres have been in contact with Jose Abreu and his representatives, and San Diego consider Abreu to be “a top priority” this offseason, according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network (via Twitter).  With Josh Bell, Wil Myers, and Brandon Drury all now free agents, the Padres have a vacancy at first base, making Abreu a logical target for the win-now team.

It has already been an active offseason for San Diego president of baseball operations A.J. Preller, as the Padres have make early strikes to re-sign both Nick Martinez and Robert Suarez.  More work on the pitching staff is still likely to come, yet the Padres could also surely use at least one more bat to bolster a lineup that was generally middle-of-the-pack leaguewide.  Getting Fernando Tatis Jr. back from suspension will help in that regard, and his return could push Jake Cronenworth towards first base.  However, signing Abreu would reinforce the first base/DH spots and give the Padres more flexibility in deciding how they want to deploy Tatis, Cronenworth, and Ha-Seong Kim in the middle infield or perhaps elsewhere (i.e. Cronenworth at first base, or Tatis in the outfield).

The Padres have passed the luxury tax threshold in each of the last two seasons, and the new contracts for Martinez and Suarez have put the team’s projected 2023 tax number at roughly $229.2MM — just shy of the $233MM threshold.  With a lot of winter shopping remaining, Preller could reduce this tax bill with some trades, yet it would certainly appear as though ownership doesn’t mind continued spending in search of the franchise’s first World Series title.

With the payroll in mind, Abreu is a particularly interesting target as a player who couldn’t require too lengthy a financial commitment.  Abreu is entering his age-36 season, and while he has continued to be a productive hitter, his age and a power dropoff in 2022 will likely limit him to perhaps two years at most on the open market.  MLBTR projects a two-year, $40MM deal for the former AL MVP, which would again put the Padres in tax territory but the club has a lot of money coming off the books after the 2023 season.

As a luxury tax payor, San Diego faces an increased penalty if it signs a free agent who rejected a qualifying offer.  To this end, Abreu carries extra value for the Padres since he wasn’t eligible for a QO, having already been issued an offer when he was last a free agent following the 2019 season.  Abreu ended up accepting that qualifying offer from the White Sox, and then a few weeks later signed a longer extension keeping him in Chicago through the 2022 campaign.

Ultimately working out as a three-year, $50MM commitment, that deal worked out well for both Abreu and the Sox, as the first baseman continued to hit into his mid-30’s.  Highlighted by his MVP showing in the shortened 2020 season, Abreu hit .289/.366/.489 with 64 homers over an even 1600 PA from 2020-22, helping Chicago reach the postseason in two of those years.  However, with young slugger Andrew Vaughn now vying for first base time and the Sox being overloaded with players in need of DH time, it appears as though the White Sox won’t be pursuing another deal with Abreu.

It sets the stage for Abreu to move on from the only Major League organization he has ever known.  After defecting from Cuba, Abreu signed a six-year, $68MM deal with the White Sox in October 2013, with Chicago outbidding several other teams.  One of the other interested teams was the Rangers, when Preller was working in the Texas front office.

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