White Sox’ Jose Abreu ‘not putting limits’ on his future

“We’ll see what life has for me, and I’ll go with it,” said the 2020 AL MVP, who’s in the final year of his contract with the White Sox.

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Jose Abreu singles against the Rangers Thursday.

White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu singles against the Rangers, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, in Arlington, Texas. (AP)

AP Photos

ARLINGTON, Texas — First baseman Jose Abreu’s contract runs out after the season, and while it’s difficult to imagine him finishing his career with another team, it’s not out of the question. After all, the White Sox would be well-served to allow Andrew Vaughn to slide into the position he’s best suited for defensively — first base.

But Abreu, only two years removed from his American League MVP season, will make it tough on the Sox to let him walk in free agency.

At 35, Abreu has 14 home runs, which lag behind his career pace, but he’s hitting .297/.377/.469 with a team-high .846 OPS after the Sox’ 8-0 loss Saturday to the Rangers. How much longer does Abreu want to play?

“As long as I can or as long as life wants me to,” he said this weekend. “I’m in a good place right now. My family is in a good place. I’m in a very good organization here. We’ll see. I don’t put numbers or limits. We’ll see what life has for me, and I’ll go with it.”

Abreu is in the last season of a three-year, $50 million contract. While maybe not quite the Gold Glove-caliber first baseman manager Tony La Russa touts him as, Abreu has improved his fielding during his career, and he ran a long way to make a sliding catch on the warning track in foul territory to retire Marcus Semien for starter Michael Kopech’s first out Saturday. And Abreu still sets the standard in the Sox’ clubhouse for preparation, resistance to taking days off and commitment to pregame routine.

“His work ethic and his competitive fire are as good as anybody I’ve ever been around,” La Russa said. “He’s tough. Very, very tough.”

For a team at one game under .500, in third place in the AL Central and in serious need of putting a winning streak together, the Sox didn’t show much competitive fire on Saturday night. Against former Sox right-hander Dane Dunning, they had just one hit in seven innings, an infield single by Yoan Moncada. Catcher Yasmani doubled with two outs in the ninth for the only other hit.

Abreu was asked about the team’s focus and intensity after the game.

“The only thing that I can control is just trying everyday,” he said. “Try every day to do my best and bring the best to the organization. That’s one thing I can control. I don’t have control over other things than that. That’s what I try to bring everyday here.”

Abreu has avoided the hamstring and other soft-tissue injuries that have hampered several of his teammates, but he deals with aches and pains that are evident at times. He never wants a day off, however, and often plays hurt. He has always pushed back against designated-hitter duty when managers see fit to give him a physical break, although La Russa said Abreu is resisting less this season.

“What’s different from last year is, I’m not in fear of DH-ing him,” La Russa said, alluding in jest to possibly being physically harmed by his star player. “I think he knows it benefits him and benefits us.”

Abreu, as he often does, attributes his success to his work — in the workout room, in the outfield hours before games running and in the hitting cages.

“My body feels good,” he said. “But this time of the season, my body always feels good.”

This time of year — this month in particular — always has been good for Abreu, a career .333/.388/.603 hitter with 58 homers and a .991 OPS in August. All of those numbers are career bests, and the Sox’ lineup that ranks 17th in the majors needs that kind of production to infuse some punch.

“I hope that I can carry that into the future,” Abreu said, “and keep feeling good and healthy as I always have in August. There’s not a key for me. Just work.”

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