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Jose Abreu says it’s time for White Sox to be relevant

The All-Star first baseman who signed a $50 million deal says the White Sox were the only team he talked to as a free agent.

Jose Abreu (right) with White Sox translator Billy Russo at Camelback Ranch on Friday.
Daryl Van Schouwen/Sun-Times

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jose Abreu looked happy, seemingly at ease with all the anticipation Friday, three days away from the first official day of spring training for position players.

Abreu had new money in his bank account, a contentment and peace shared with the people who matter most to him — his family — that he will play another three years for the White Sox. He also is embracing reasonable expectations that the Sox’ roster is equipped enough to talk postseason without raising eyebrows.

“It’s just that time for us to start winning games and start to be relevant,” Abreu said at a picnic table near the front doors of the Sox’ spring-training complex.

It has been well documented that the Cuban first baseman’s six seasons on the South Side were losing ones, and that despite it, he assured everyone he would return to the Sox. Without as much as negotiating with another team, Abreu, 33, secured a three-year, $50 million deal in free agency in the offseason.

‘‘My agent and I were focused on the White Sox; that was our focus through the whole process,” he said. “My mom taught me to be thankful, and I’m really thankful to be with the White Sox.

‘‘Yes, we had conversations with a team: with the White Sox.”

No one else? “No.”

You know you’re supposed to get paid, right?

‘‘It’s not all about the money,’’ Abreu said. ‘‘My family is good in Chicago. They love Chicago. They are really grateful and good with the White Sox’ organization. Just the way that the organization has treated them, the fans, all the support. For us, it didn’t make sense to look around for other places.”

Maybe chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, who assured Abreu last season he would never wear another uniform, isn’t the most loyal member of this organization, after all.

For Abreu, whose value to the team is measured by his middle-of-the-order bat as well as his influence on young Cubans Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert and young Dominican Eloy Jimenez, things could not be rosier as he begins his seventh spring training.

“I’m excited because the expectations are there,” he said.

Already sending a message to the clubhouse, even before Jimenez and Robert arrived, Abreu said all for one and one for all still means something.

“We have to be united,” Abreu said. “We need to be strong in good times and bad times if we want to be successful this season. With the guys that we have, that’s something that’s doable. That’s our goal. Expectations are high because we all know this is the time for us to win.”

Of all the Sox’ offseason acquisitions, the new designated hitter, a proven 30-homer hitter, brought a big smile to Abreu’s face. Middle-of-the-order hitters love protection in the lineup.

“Edwin Encarnacion, that’s the missing piece,” Abreu said. “That’s the piece in our lineup that we were missing. I’m just excited to start playing with him.”

And why not? With Robert, Yasmani Grandal, Nomar Mazara and possibly Nick Madrigal joining Moncada, Jimenez and Tim Anderson in the lineup, the Sox should score plenty of runs.

“This is the turning point for us as White Sox and as big-leaguers,” Abreu said. “We’re going to start winning here, and that’s something that keeps me excited. And not just for me, everyone is excited that we’re going to be a winning team.” V