MESA, Ariz. — White Sox slugger Jose Abreu peeked to his left Friday at locker-room neighbor Luis Robert, as well as at Yoan Moncada two lockers over, and considered his role as something of a father figure.
His thoughts were not so much about the lessons he can impart to the young players nearby. Rather, they were about the pride he feels at seeing them flourish.
‘‘The majority of us here are parents, right?’’ Abreu said through an interpreter. ‘‘How would you feel if your kids are doing great and signing good contracts? That’s how I feel.’’
The contract of note Friday was the five-year, $70 million extension for Moncada that the Sox announced as official. Just after the start of the new year, Robert received a six-year, $50 million deal. Just about a year ago, Eloy Jimenez nailed down a six-year, $43 million pact.
‘‘I think we can objectively sit here today and feel like . . . we have three of arguably the most exciting young players in the American League under control for at least the next six years,’’ Sox general manager Rick Hahn said from the back of the press box at the Cubs’ Sloan Park.
Sox players and front-office members have talked about the buy-in process. Tim Anderson has made it his mission statement. Moncada showed his commitment to the project with his extension. Sure, life-changing money is nice. But this group is confident that winning baseball is ahead.
‘‘This team has a lot of young talent,’’ Moncada said through an interpreter. ‘‘Part of that is we all can be able to carry this team to win a World Series championship. That’s our goal, but definitely the talent that we have right now is something that makes you feel excited.’’
With Moncada’s new contract finished, manager Rick Renteria batted him in the leadoff spot against Cubs left-hander Jon Lester. Anderson moved to the No. 2 spot. Moncada blooped a single to right field to open the game, and Anderson singled to left.
Moncada entered the game with only two hits in six games this spring after batting .315 with a .367 on-base percentage last season. He hit 25 home runs and had 79 RBI.
‘‘If [a contract] didn’t happen, I would still have my focus on this season,’’ Moncada said. ‘‘But, of course, it’s good to have this done and put all my focus on the season because I have big plans. I’m expecting to have a way better season than I had last year.’’
Better days lie ahead for the Sox, but moving past the .500 mark is the first step. They haven’t delivered a winning season since 2012. The last time they won the AL Central was 2008, which is also their last playoff appearance.
At the very least, the South Side figures to be an uncomfortable place for teams to visit this season.
‘‘We’re awfully close to it,’’ Hahn said. ‘‘At the end of last season, we talked about transitioning out of the first phase of this rebound, with the goal being getting to the third stage, where we’re capable of winning championships, capable of making a [visiting] team real uncomfortable.
‘‘We feel like we’re a lot closer to that third stage than we were when [last] season ended, and at the end of this year, we’ll feel even closer than we feel today. How quickly we get there, we’ll find out together.’’
Family. Excitement. Focus. Togetherness. It is all part of the process.
‘‘With all this happening, I can say I’m going to play alongside Eloy and Luis Robert for a long time, and that’s going to be a key for the success of this team,’’ Moncada said.