Free agent Jose Abreu made it clear he wanted to play for the White Sox and Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf made it clear, Abreu said, that he wouldn’t let him wear any other uniform.
The only question was how much longer the soon-to-be 33 year-old first baseman would wear Sox pinstripes after playing through the six-year deal he signed out of Cuba that ran out after this season. After accepting the club’s one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer right before the deadline Thursday, the only certainty is that it’s one more year.
It seems, for now, to be a good deal for both sides. Abreu will earn a tidy sum at a position for which demand in the open market is probably limited, even for a top-flight right-handed hitter. The two sides can continue to discuss an extension, and if one isn’t reached, the Sox know Andrew Vaughn, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 draft considered the most polished college hitter available, should be waiting in the wings.
The Sox also know Abreu is reaching an age where performance typically declines. He can become a free agent without restriction after the 2020 season.
Abreu has hit at least 25 homers and collected 100 or more RBI in five of his six seasons. He made his third All-Star team in 2019, batting .284/.330/.503 with 33 home runs and an American-League leading 123 RBI.
Although his English skills are limited, the Sox have valued Abreu’s clubhouse presence and leadership, especially with young Cubans such as Yoan Moncada and prized prospect Luis Robert around, as well as Spanish speaking rookie Eloy Jimenez.
The Sox figure to use Abreu at first base, where his skills have improved but are below average, according to most analytics.
“If he’s back tomorrow, he’s penciled in as the first baseman with the occasional work at DH,’’ general manager Rick Hahn said Wednesday.
The Sox did not make a formal announcement but posted a “welcome back, Jose” tweet on their Twitter feed.
”There’s a lot of love, there’s a lot of mutual admiration and desire throughout the organization right on up to Jerry,” Hahn said Tuesday.
Abreu could have turned down the qualifying offer and hit free agency, but any team that signed him would’ve been required to give the Sox a draft pick as compensation. Twins right-hander Jake Odorizzi was the only other player to accept a qualifying offer.