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Orioles free agent target: José Abreu

José Abreu would provide the Orioles an impact bat and veteran leadership as they attempt to transition from fun story to playoff contender.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Texas Rangers Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles lost an option at first base when they dealt Trey Mancini to the Astros. Mancini had served as an impact bat and team leader for Baltimore, but the O’s needed to gain some value for the free-agent-to-be. The move worked out for both parties with the Orioles netting a pair of pitching prospects and Mancini winning a World Series.

The move left Ryan Mountcastle as the lone option at first for the Orioles. Tyler Nevin failed to perform at a level worthy of a roster spot, which led Baltimore to sign Jesús Aguilar to a minor-league deal. Aguilar tallied 11 hits and only one home run in 16 games before officially becoming a free agent this offseason.

Nevin remains in the system, but Mountcastle represents the only proven option for the Orioles on their current roster. Anthony Santander took ground balls at first throughout last season but never appeared at the position.

Baltimore’s decision to add Aguilar showed they felt the need to have at least two options at first base. If the team must dedicate a roster spot, why not use it for an impact bat?

José Abreu is a three time All Star and former AL MVP. The soon-to-be 36-year-old has spent his entire MLB career with the White Sox but is now considered one of the best bats available in free agency.

Abreu played first base in 128 games last season while serving as the designated hitter 28 times. He may not win a Gold Glove next season, but he remains capable of playing league average defense at the position. Of course, the Birds would covet Abreu for his bat.

Abreu slashed an impressive .304/.378/.446 for the White Sox last season. His home run total dipped from 30 to 15 last season, but his batting average jumped 43 points. His average exit velocity still ranked in the 93rd percentile, and his .292 XBA ranked in the top two percent of the league. The guy still rakes.

Abreu would immediately enter a time share at first with Mountcastle and serve as the DH when not playing the position. Mountcastle slashed .250/.305/.423 and tallied 22 home runs last season. His average exit velocity ranked in the 88th percentile, but his chase rate fell in the bottom 10 percent.

Abreu would provide a true impact bat to the middle of the order. His presence would bring competition for Mountcastle, but would also reduce the burden of batting cleanup every night. Baltimore would not be giving up on Mountcastle, but rather giving the 25-year-old an opportunity to thrive like he did when paired with Mancini.

Mountcastle would not be the only one to benefit from the addition. Abreu has been lauded for his leadership with Chicago. Baltimore appreciated the culture players like Rougned Odor and Robinson Chirinos helped instill last season. Now, they could add a veteran that contributes at the plate and in the locker room.

Similar to Justin Verlander, Abreu represents a high quality player that would not require a long term deal due to his age. Both Verlander and Abreu are ineligible for a qualifying offer, so the Orioles would not surrender draft pick compensation to sign either of the pair.

Several projections have Abreu signing a two-year deal worth around $40 million. The Cubs, Red Sox and others have been linked to the veteran, but the Orioles have not been named a favorite to sign him. Baltimore could potentially stand out if it offered a third year option, but it remains to be seen whether Abreu would join an up-and-coming bunch in Baltimore.

Nobody knows if Baltimore’s new left field wall would impact the right-hander’s thinking, but Abreu appears poised to hit the ball hard no matter where he plays next season. Abreu or Mountcastle would occupy a large portion of DH starts, but the Birds could still work in Adley Rutschman or other players needing a break from the field when necessary.

The Orioles may have larger needs, primarily in the pitching department, but signing Abreu would prove they are serious about adding an impact bat to the lineup. It’s all fun and games until Baltimore actually signs a player, but Abreu looks pretty swell sporting black and orange in my imagination.