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CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox have agreed to a six-year, $68 million contract to acquire Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu, according to multiple reports, in a signing that will be the largest initial free-agent contract given to an international player.
The 26-year-old slugger defected this summer.
Abreu is considered by many in the industry to be a risky acquisition, a relative unknown despite having a better track record in Cuba's national league than Yoenis Cespedes of the Oakland Athletics and Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers before their jumps to the big leagues.
In the 2010-11 season in Cuba, Abreu batted .453 in 63 games and had 33 home runs and 93 RBIs despite missing time with a shoulder injury. He played the full season the previous year, batting .399 with 30 home runs and 76 RBIs.
Abreu is expected to inherit the first base position from Paul Konerko, who became a free agent at the end of the season. White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said before the season ended he wanted to meet with Konerko early this offseason to discuss the future.
|Cuba's Jose Abreu (batting during World Baseball Classic pool play in March) is expected to replace free agent Paul Konerko at first base for Chicago.|
Abreu's deal has been reported by MLB.com, Fox Sports and The Associated Press.
ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney reported Thursday night the White Sox were front-runners to land Abreu at around $70 million. Olney also reported the Boston Red Sox were out of the running and the Houston Astros had fallen short with a bid of $55 million.
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Abreu is a right-handed batter who can also be used as a designated hitter. At this spring's World Baseball Classic, he hit .360 (9-for-25) with three home runs and nine RBIs.
The White Sox freed some $40 million in payroll this season when Jake Peavy was traded to the Red Sox and Alex Rios was dealt to the Texas Rangers. Konerko made $13.5 million in the last year of his White Sox deal, while Gavin Floyd was paid $9.5 million in the final year of his contract.
The White Sox also acquired slugging outfielder Avisail Garcia in the Peavy deal, giving the team two right-handed hitters for the middle of the order in its attempt to revamp the roster in the wake of some major disappointment in the 2013 season.
The White Sox were last in the American League in runs with 598 and 13th in slugging percentage at .378.
The Rangers, Miami Marlins and San Francisco Giants also were reportedly interested in Abreu's services.