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updated: 7/7/2014 11:30 PM

White Sox' Abreu one very special free-agent signing

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  • White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu could turn out to be the best free-agent signing ever for a Chicago sports team.

      White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu could turn out to be the best free-agent signing ever for a Chicago sports team.
    Associated Press

 
 

Flattering designations were heaped upon Jose Abreu during the past week.

The White Sox' slugging first baseman was named an American League all-star and rookie of the month. Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson experimented with different nicknames for Abreu, from the Cannon to El Hombre.

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This is all heady stuff for a major-league rookie, though it should be pointed out that Abreu is 27. He isn't a traditional first-year player -- or traditional free agent, for that matter -- after playing in Cuba.

But Abreu is a rookie free agent just the same and still familiarizing himself with opposing pitchers.

Here's another accolade: Jose Abreu is the best free agent signee by any Chicago sports team in the past quarter-century.

OK, so if Abreu isn't that yet he is at least potentially and also potentially the best ever.

(Yes, maybe even ahead of Carmelo Anthony if … and maybe even ahead of the Cubs' international signings if …)

Anyway, the competition for the honor isn't exactly formidable. Local teams haven't had the best of luck with free agents.

The best I could think of over the past 25 years has been -- drum roll, please -- Marian Hossa.

The most notable free agents arrived here before 1989: Andre Dawson with the Cubs, Carlton Fisk with the Sox, Gary Fencik and Steve McMichael with the Bears … and nobody especially special with the Bulls.

The Bears' best in recent times likely was Julius Peppers, who played at a Pro Bowl level but couldn't elevate his team to a Super Bowl level.

The Bulls never added a great free agent that I can think of. Their best were essentially complementary players on the Jordan Dynasty teams or busts ever since.

The White Sox' previous best free-agent signing during the past quarter-century was Albert Belle, who hit 79 home runs during his two seasons in Chicago while being so annoying that the Sox were thrilled when he moved on to Baltimore.

Now, all this is subjective of course. You might have other names at the top of your list of Hawks, Cubs, Bears, Bulls and Sox free agents.

But until now, for me, Marian Hossa, leads this category.

Championships say a lot about a free agent, and Hossa has helped the Hawks win two Stanley Cups.

The Bears team that won Super Bowl XX had a few, including the aforementioned Fencik and McMichael, but that was nearly three decades ago.

More recently the Sox had a few on their 2005 World Series winner such as A.J. Pierzynski, Jermaine Dye and Tadahito Iguchi.

But I'm still sticking with Marian Hossa over any of those guys.

Then along came this large Cuban man who plays first base for the Sox and makes Hossa's reign at the top seem in jeopardy.

Jose Abreu's start has been spectacular, establishing records for the most home runs in the fewest number of games.

Some of Abreu's individual homers are spectacular, too. The one he hit over the weekend against Seattle essentially was a line drive double until it kept carrying and carrying and carrying into the seats.

Indications are that Abreu is hardworking, coachable, a good teammate, a leader and grounded enough to still be putting his pants on one leg at a time.

That comprises an impressive package that, yes, has the potential to make Abreu the best free agent any Chicago team ever signed.

It sure wouldn't hurt Abreu's chances to earn that distinction if the White Sox built a championship team around him.

Right now it's hard to imagine the Sox winning another World Series but not so hard to imagine Jose Abreu being the MVP of the World Series some day.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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