Give Jose Abreu an extension for what he’s been through with the White Sox and where they might go with him
He clearly believes in the rebuild and has said he wants to stay. If the Sox finish below .500 this season, he’ll have played all six of his big-league seasons on losing teams. He either has an incredible pain tolerance or his understanding of the difference between winning and losing got lost in the translation when he defected from Cuba in 2013.
There’s very little room for sentimentality in professional sports. A chip-card reader has more space.
But it sure would be nice if the White Sox rewarded Jose Abreu for what he has meant to them for six seasons and for all the losing they’ve put him through, especially during their rebuild. The reward would be the July 31 trade deadline passing and Abreu still modeling a Sox uniform. The reward would be a contract extension for their first baseman.
From the outside, that reward might seem like inhumane treatment, if not a violation of the Geneva Conventions. There are no guarantees the rebuilt Sox will become the World Series-winning Sox in the next several years. Heading into their game Wednesday in Kansas City, they had lost five games in a row to fall to 42-49.
But Abreu clearly believes in what the franchise is doing and has said repeatedly that he wants to stay with the club. This is a guy who, if the Sox finish below .500 this season, will have played all six of his big-league seasons on losing teams. He either has an incredible tolerance for pain or his understanding of the difference between winning and losing got lost in the translation when he defected from Cuba in 2013.
Wanting him to remain in Chicago isn’t about everyone cannonballing into a vat of sentimentality. Abreu has a lot of value beyond what he might bring in a trade. He leads the team in home runs (21) and RBI (66, third in the American League), and he’s hitting .270. He has been an All-Star three times, including this season. He has had 100 RBI or more four times and could do it again this season.
And teammates rave about his guidance, influence and genuine concern for people.
USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported Monday that the Sox are trying to sign Abreu, 32, to a short-term extension, which only backs up all the nice things general manager Rick Hahn has been saying lately about his first baseman. The report, if true, is good news. It might not be good news for the amateur GMs out there who believe, in the name of youth and draft picks, that everybody must go during a rebuild. But it is good news if you value Abreu’s leadership, especially with the young Latin players on the team, and if you think the Sox will be contenders in the A.L. Central next season.
It would be easy to look at the team’s struggles since the All-Star break and start making calls to deal Abreu. It would also be a massive overreaction, just as it would be an overreaction to say the Cubs’ first-half troubles are behind them because they’ve done well since the break.
What, you thought the young Sox weren’t going to have ups and downs this season? You thought players wouldn’t get hurt? A realistic expectation for next season is to see significant progress from Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease; to see Luis Robert, slaughterer of minor-league pitching, as an everyday big-leaguer; and to witness the long list of injured players, including pitchers Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodon, shrink.
To pull the rug out from underneath Abreu would be counterproductive for the team. With all the young players continuing to learn how to be major-leaguers, he might be more important in the clubhouse now than he has ever been.
Removing Abreu from that equation makes no sense. And trading him after all he has invested in – and done for – the club would be cruel. If you believe the Sox are on the cusp of something good here, a trade would be heartless, even if they dealt him to a contender.
Everybody knows major-league baseball is a business. Everybody knows that the most important thing is winning and that every decision should be made with that in mind. But keeping Abreu is both a good baseball decision and the right thing to do.
If there’s any owner in sport who is overly loyal to favored employees, it’s Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. There are people in both organizations he runs, the Sox and the Bulls, who should have been introduced to the door a long time ago. But Reinsdorf sees something in them that others would need eye surgery to be able to discern. So they have stayed, and their family photos have been super glued and then nailed to their office walls.
This would be a good time for Reinsdorf’s renowned loyalty to take over. This would be a good time for the chairman to say a pledge of allegiance to a good hitter and teammate. Boy, has Abreu earned it.