As the White Sox head into the winter following a 76-86 offseason, CSNChicago.com will examine the past, present and future of each position group at 35th and Shields. We'll look at first base today.
1. Jose Abreu: 6 years/$68M (2014-19)
2. Adam LaRoche: 2 years/$25M (2015-16)
3. Mike Olt: 1.156 MLB service time
What went right
Jose Abreu proved to be a lineup mainstay in Year 2 with the White Sox. The 28-year-old became only the second player in major league history to hit 30 or more home runs and drive in 100 or more runs in his first two seasons, joining Albert Pujols with that designation. His contract escalates to pay him $10 million in 2016 after earning $7 million in 2014 and 2015, but after a 3.0 WAR season he should remain one of the better power-hitting bargains in the majors.
Abreu was hampered by a finger injury that saw his OPS bottom out at .804 on June 8, but he hit 21 home runs with a .298/.354/.518 slash line in 2012 games after that point.
What went wrong
That Abreu avoided a sophomore slump was a welcome sign for an organization that doesn't have much depth behind him.
Adam LaRoche didn't adjust well to the American League, posting a full season career-worst .634 OPS. Interestingly enough -- and small sample size alert here -- he hit eight of his 12 home runs and had a .746 OPS in 45 games as a first baseman, and hit below the Mendoza line with a .560 OPS in 74 games as a designated hitter. He wasn't mashing the ball enough for the White Sox to consider possibly disrupting Abreu's rhythm and playing LaRoche at first base more, but for a guy who hadn't played in the American League or DH'd much in his career, it's worth noting that split.
[MORE: White Sox season review: Bullpen]
If we're splitting hairs, Abreu wasn't as good as he was in 2014, hitting six fewer home runs with an OPS 114 points lower than his rookie year. Defensively, he continued to grade out poorly, though below-average first base defense is something a team can live with (compared to, say, poor up-the-middle or third base defense).
Down on the farm, 22-year-old former first-round sandwich pick Keon Barnum only hit nine home runs with a .712 OPS in his repeat year at advanced Class-A Winston-Salem. In Class-AA Birmingham, 24-year-old first baseman Dan Hayes -- not to be confused with our own Dan Hayes -- posted a .388 on-base percentage but only hit seven home runs with a .360 slugging percentage.
This is the most stable position on the White Sox with Abreu under contract through 2019. The 28-year-old may still need to move to designated hitter sometime in the future, though that’s not an imminent change. From an offensive standpoint, the White Sox can pencil Abreu in for 30 home runs, an .850-.900 OPS and 100 RBIs for the next few seasons.