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White Sox Wed Dec 10 2014

All Roads Lead to Abreu as White Sox Get Samardzija, Robertson

Chicago White SoxThe White Sox had their happiest day in many moons on Monday. General manager Rick Hahn signed closer David Robertson and traded for All Star pitcher Jeff Samardzija.

Robertson will help a dreadful bullpen and Samardzija will team with Chris Sale and Jose Quintana to form the American League's best 1-2-3 rotation combo. More importantly, the two acquisitions shifted the Sox into win-now mode and even lowered their World Series title odds from 50-to-1 to 25-to-1.

How insane is it that all this happened? As recently as the end of the 2013 season, the Sox looked to be in an absolute mess, a team filled with low-value veterans and low-rated minor leaguers.

But, almost in an instant, everything flipped when the Sox gambled on Jose Abreu last October.

Signing Abreu was a surprising move at the time. Rebuilding teams often pass on pursuing long-term free agents who are already in their prime. And while signing Cuban position players seems to be a no-brainer now, there was still the concern as to how Abreu would adjust to MLB pitching.

Abreu quickly became a superstar for the Sox. A righty who hits for both home run and extra base power, Abreu, at 28, will be one of the best everyday players in the league next year and an MVP candidate. He's an excellent ballplayer, a force in high-leverage spots and a supreme asset for the White Sox. He makes the rest of the team fall into place that much easier.

Adam Eaton, a perfect lead-off hitter, has Abreu to drive him in. With Abreu fortifying the lineup, the Sox could withstand other injuries, like losing Avisail Garcia for most of last year. If other guys step up on offense, like Tyler Flowers, Alexei Ramirez and Conor Gillaspie putting up good numbers last year, then Abreu pushes the team as a whole to the next level (The Sox were top-10 in HRs, OPS and total bases in 2014). Adding Abreu to go along with Sale gives the Sox two of the best, most cost-effective franchise players in baseball and makes building around them that much easier and feasible.

With a strong offense last year, the Sox withstood a terrible bullpen, crummy starting pitching from the latter part of the rotation and bad fielding. Replace Abreu with an average starting first baseman and the Sox were at least five games worse last year (Abreu's WAR was 5.5) and back to being hopeless for the future.

Replace him with an average first baseman, and Monday night doesn't happen.

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