When Ken Williams went on a scouting mission to the Dominican Republic in October to see Jose Abreu, he hoped he wouldn’t like what he’d see.
“The prices on some of these signings have gotten out of control,’’ Williams said, and there was talk that Abreu’s contract would exceed fellow Cuban Yasiel Puig’s $42 million deal.
After seeing him, the White Sox executive vice president had no doubt Abreu was the real deal. Four weeks later, Abreu was signed to a six-year, $68 million contract.
After watching that batting-practice session, which was nothing about showmanship and everything about a professional approach to hitting, Williams said that he wanted to give Abreu a standing ovation.
He got on the phone to chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and general manager Rick Hahn.
“I said, ‘Here’s where we are boys: I want him, and I want him bad.’ ’’
The Sox won the bidding tussle for Abreu, which involved five teams offering somewhere around the $60 million mark.
Williams and everyone else associated with the Sox are glad they did. The 27-year-old rookie leads the majors with 10 homers, and he collected his major-league-leading 32nd RBI with his second of two singles in the Sox’ 7-3 victory over the Rays. He’s beginning to pour it on.
“And it hasn’t even warmed up yet,’’ Williams said.
As high as he was on Abreu, Williams didn’t see this happening.
“I didn’t expect 10 home runs and 30-plus RBI in less than a month,’’ he said. “I still caution everyone to not get too far in terms of expectations on numbers.’’
All Williams will ask of Abreu is to continue be a disciplined hitter with a good approach and plan. He knows the homers will take care of themselves because of his strength.
“He’s a focused young man, and he’s very humble, too,’’ Williams said.
When Reinsdorf asked Williams before negotiations to place a value on Abreu, Williams said four years, $40 million. When the numbers escalated during talks, “Jerry, the lawyer that he is, asked, ‘If you’re comfortable at 40, why not another year at 50?’ And then it kept going higher and higher. Understand that the higher it gets … the greater you have to put your butt on the line. It began to get uncomfortable.’’
Reinsdorf then wanted to know if Abreu would be an every-day player his first year. Williams said he was 100 percent certain if Abreu stayed healthy.
“What people don’t know about Jerry and Rick — and Jerry in particular — they were never on the field, but the competitiveness they have behind the scenes is as intense as any player that has been on that field. So they were on it, man. Next thing I know I’m getting calls at midnight. At one point I got off the phone and turned to [my fiancée] and said, ‘I have never been in the position where Jerry is trying to talk me into raising an offer. This is really bizarre.’ ’’
In the end, Reinsdorf, Williams and Hahn got their man.
“[It’s like] when Detroit acquires Miguel Cabrera, you know?’’ Rays coach Joe Maddon said Monday. “Or Mike Trout surfaces in Anaheim. “There’s always these prodigy kind of players out there, that when they show up, it’s a combination of great work ethic, calm and an ability to go out there and perform. That’s what I see with [Abreu].’’
NOTES: Pitching coach Don Cooper said that Chris Sale (elbow), who played catch for a second straight day, is progressing but that there is no timetable for a return.
◆ Right-hander Felipe Paulino (shoulder) will make a minor-league rehab start this weekend.
◆ Waiver claim Hector Noesi is the likely starter against the Tigers on Wednesday.
◆ Adam Dunn paid for Scott Carroll’s party of around 30 family and friends at Timothy O’Toole’s restaurant Sunday after Carroll’s victorious major-league debut.