Contemplating Jose Abreu’s place in White Sox’ rebuild
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jose Abreu’s recent tear, which has him steamrolling toward a fourth consecutive season of 25 or more homers and 100 or more RBI, has the White Sox feeling good, knowing their first baseman is under contract for two more seasons, even though they might not be equipped to contend until after his six-year deal is up.
Which begs the question, will Abreu be with the Sox after his contract runs out? Or, more immediately, will he get traded before it runs out?
It might make sense for general manager Rick Hahn to entertain offers this offseason not only for Abreu, but for right fielder Avisail Garcia, who’s enjoying his best season but is also under club control through 2019.
The Sox have well-regarded outfield prospects Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Blake Rutherford in their pipeline, and they did pick two slugging corner infielders in the 2017 draft, first-rounder Jake Burger and over-slot second-rounder Gavin Sheets. And Abreu will be 33 when he signs his next big contract, which could be an expensive deal should he continue at the steady, productive pace he’s on.
The only knock against Abreu’s game is his defense, which has probably improved somewhat with hard work. But his value as a steady clubhouse presence, especially with young players such as fellow Cuban Yoan Moncada around, seems to be spiking.
“When you’re around a guy like him, you feel confident because he will always be there for advice,” Moncada, 22, said Monday after Abreu came a home run shy of hitting for the cycle for the second time in three games.
“I don’t know why, but he made an order of bats for me . . . just little things like that he does for us has a good impact on us.’’
Abreu has said over and over again that he wants to stay with the Sox through the rebuild, and it is known to be a genuine sentiment.
Hahn answered in broad strokes when asked about where Abreu and Garcia, the Sox’ two most productive hitters, fit in the rebuild.
“With any player on our current roster, we’re charged with assessing — both this offseason and very likely next, as well — how well any of them fit on our roster when our window to contend reopens,’’ Hahn said. “This assessment is based on numerous factors, including projected performance, age, cost, length of control, impact on the clubhouse and teammates, as well as how all of those compare to the attributes of alternatives available to us inside or outside the organization.’’
That window doesn’t figure to open until 2019, at the earliest, and possibly 2020 if all goes according to plan.
“In the specific cases of Abreu and Avi, with both on pace for free agency after the 2019 season, we do not currently have control over either during a significant portion of the time that we expect to contend,’’ Hahn said. “That can change should we wind up signing either of them to an extension. Ultimately, we will make the decision as to what course makes the most strategic and economic sense based upon all the considerations mentioned above and what best serves our ultimate goal of winning championships.”
Abreu went 1-for-5 in the Sox’ 4-3 loss Tuesday to the Royals, popping up with the tying run on third with one out in the ninth against lefty Scott Alexander, who struck out Moncada for the first out with Adam Engel on third and finished the game by getting pinch hitter Matt Davidson on a grounder to third.
Sox right-hander Dylan Covey (0-5, 7.90 ERA) walked the bases loaded in the first and allowed a grand slam to Brandon Moss to put the Sox in a 4-0 hole before recovering nicely by allowing only one more hit in 5‰ innings.
Yolmer Sanchez, Tim Anderson and Rob Brantly had two hits and one RBI apiece for the Sox (57-87), who had their three-game winning streak snapped.
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