Jose Abreu era comes to end with White Sox

Astros, first baseman in agreement on three-year deal.

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Jose Abreu’s time with the White Sox has ended. The former AL MVP agreed to a new deal with the Houston Astros.

Jose Abreu’s time with the White Sox has ended. The former AL MVP agreed to a new deal with the Houston Astros.

Quinn Harris/Getty Images

First baseman Jose Abreu’s time on the South Side is officially over.

The White Sox slugger, who had played his entire nine-year career in Chicago since signing out of Cuba before the 2014 season, is reportedly in agreement on a three-year, $60 million deal with the World Series champion Astros.

It had become increasingly apparent since the end of the season that the Sox were prepared to part ways with Abreu, 35, and move on with Andrew Vaughn switching from the outfield to his customary position. Vaughn was drafted as a first baseman with the third pick in the 2019 draft, and the Sox have -multiple designated-hitter options who were subpar defensively, including left fielder Eloy Jimenez and catcher Yasmani Grandal.

In Abreu, the Sox say goodbye to one of their most productive hitters of all time. He batted .292/.354/.506 with 243 homers and 863 RBI in a Sox uniform, trailing only Frank Thomas and Paul Konerko on the team’s all-time homer list. No first baseman in baseball has collected more homers and drove in more runs than Abreu since his first season.

“José Abreu deservedly belongs among the roster of White Sox franchise all-time greats,” Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement Tuesday. “His determination and commitment to the game each and every day made him the consummate professional, always leading by example.”

In the 2020 season abbreviated by COVID-19, Abreu played in all 60 games and became the first Sox to win the Most Valuable Player award since Thomas in 1994. Abreu, who batted .317/.370/.617 with 19 homers, 60 RBI and a .987 OPS in 2020, openly wept on MLB Network when he won the award.

Abreu had six seasons with 25 or more home runs and six with more than 100 RBI but recorded 15 homers and 75 RBI this -season while batting .304/.378/.446 while posting the second-best hard-contact rate of his career and lowering his strikeout rate to a career-best 16.2%.

Abreu signed a six-year, $68 million contract to leave Cuba for the Sox and just completed the third year of a $50 million contract. Abreu also reportedly received a three-year off from the Guardians. At his introductory press conference in Houston Tuesday, Abreu said the Sox “made an offer,” although not a formal one.

“It was my fervent hope that José would never wear another uniform, as I told him many times throughout the years,” Reinsdorf said. “Unfortunately, hope is not always translated into reality. While we ended up in different places in the business side of the game, José and I always shared the same love of baseball. I am grateful to José for his friendship, and the impact he made for the White Sox franchise both on the field and in the community. I want to thank him for always representing the values of the White Sox organization and the great city of Chicago — strength, hard work, pride and tenacity. His legacy is written in the White Sox record books forever.”

Besides his value as a hitter, Abreu was a fan favorite and highly respected teammate. At the general managers meetings in Las Vegas last month, GM Rick Hahn spoke of Abreu’s accomplishments and value in the clubhouse as a tireless worker who led by example, often arriving to the ballpark around noon for night games and playing hurt.

“If he’s not with us next year he’ll be missed,” Hahn said.

In spring training, Abreu spoke of finishing his career with another team for the first time after saying before his last contract that he “would sign myself” with the Sox because of his loyalty to the franchise. Before signing his last Sox contract, Abreu said Reinsforf had told him he would never wear another uniform.

But a roster configuration crunch, not to mention a less expensive option in Vaughn, 24, paved the way for Abreu’s departure.

‘‘There’s only so many different ways that you can fit various players on the roster, and Jose returning would have a ripple effect on others,” Hahn said at the end of the season.

It’s a departure that opens a need for others to step forward in leadership roles, although teammates view Abreu as a quiet leader by example. Among position players, shortstop Tim Anderson, who turns 30 next season, his eighth, would be one possibility. But Anderson, as well as the team’s Spanish- speaking stars Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert, need to stay healthy and on the field more to carry a torch.

Pitchers Lance Lynn and Liam Hendriks possess the strongest leadership profiles in the clubhouse. Vaughn is a quieter worker who could lead in the same way Abreu did.

Abreu, who played in 157 games in 2022, sat out the last game. He seemed to see the writing on the wall.

‘‘I want to thank [the fans] for all the support, for always having my back,’’ Abreu said through a translator Oct. 4. ‘‘These were a special nine years, and I hope there can be more. But up to now it’s been very special, and I’m going to be forever grateful for them.’’

With Yuli Gurriel a free agent, the Astros now have first base adequately covered. And with interest in Cubs free-agent catcher -Willson Contreras, they’re not done.

The Astros open the 2023 season in -Houston on March 30 against the Sox.

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