White Sox

How does Jose Abreu figure into the White Sox long-term plans?

How does Jose Abreu figure into the White Sox long-term plans?

He’s the center of it all for now, but how does Jose Abreu fit into the White Sox long-term plans?

The veteran first baseman blasted two more home runs on Tuesday night as he continued his best season since his rookie year. Abreu launched home runs Nos. 32 and 33 for the White Sox, who fell to the Los Angeles Angels 9-3 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Not only has Abreu provided outstanding all-around play, he’s taken on additional leadership responsibilities and serves as a role model for many of his young teammates. But whether his age — he turns 31 in January — will affect Abreu’s chances at sticking around through the entirety of the White Sox rebuild remains to be seen.

One year after Abreu had the White Sox front office wondering about his identity — was he the player who slumped for the first four months of 2016 or the guy who had a .969 OPS in August and September? — he’s seemingly answered all those questions.

Short of a slow start in April, Abreu has been an absolute force in the middle of the lineup. His bat has produced hard-hit contact similar to 2014 when he was the unanimous AL rookie of the year. Abreu’s 90.6 mph average exit velocity is 16th in the majors (minimum 190 batted-ball events), according to Baseball Savant.

His 109.4-mph blast to left field in the first inning off Angels starter Parker Bridwell gave the White Sox an early 1-0 lead. He launched a second home run in the sixth inning with an exit velo of 106.3 mph to dead center, giving him 33 homers and 102 RBIs.

Overall, Abreu is hitting .307/.358/.561 with a career-high 81 extra-base hits in 656 plate appearances. Abreu’s defense has also improved vastly to the point where manager Rick Renteria has again described him as an “excellent” defender (metrics peg him at close to average) on Tuesday. Abreu entered Tuesday valued at 3.9 f-Wins Above Replacement.

The production is exactly what the White Sox expected when they originally signed Abreu to a six-year deal worth $68 million after the 2013 season ended.

But his value isn’t just limited to the field. He’s been a mentor to second baseman Yoan Moncada and outfielder Avisail Garcia, among others. Abreu also has been more vocal with all of his teammates as his own grasp of English has improved.

And his work ethic is second to none, physical trainer Allen Thomas identifying Abreu as the team’s most dedicated in the gym. That dedication has helped Abreu shed nearly 20 pounds since he first joined the White Sox and ultimately played a key role when he recently tripled in his final at-bat to complete the cycle in a win over the San Francisco Giants.

Abreu has repeatedly stated he enjoys his role as mentor/leader and is very encouraged in the team’s direction because of the talent that has begun to emerge. Though he understands the business side of baseball could interfere, Abreu has also expressed a desire to stay and win with the White Sox.

The White Sox likely see their window to compete opening in 2019 or 2020, at which point Abreu would be 32 years old. Athletes generally tend to start their decline around that age, which could prevent the White Sox from trying to extend Abreu and instead encourage them to shop him around this offseason or even at the trade deadline next season. Even though he has two seasons of arbitration eligibility left, Abreu, who earned $10.825 million in 2017, should have a stronger market this winter than he did last year, when interest was minimal.

Still, Abreu’s dedication to fitness could help him extend the length of his career and help him provide value well into his mid-30s.

The White Sox will have to weigh all of those factors as they figure out how to proceed with Abreu, one of the biggest questions of the team’s rebuild.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Meet the real Tim Anderson

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Meet the real Tim Anderson

On the latest White Sox Talk Podcast, Tim Anderson opens up about his struggles in 2017 and why he wants White Sox fans "to know the real me."

Anderson dives into his personal tragedy from last season when his best friend was murdered in Alabama. 

He talks with Chuck Garfien about the dark days that happened, how counseling helped him, his new leadership role in 2018, if he'll draw more walks this season, "bringing swag to the South Side" with Yoan Moncada and much more.

Listen to the full White Sox Talk Podcast right here:

After last season's personal tragedy, Tim Anderson ready to unleash real self

After last season's personal tragedy, Tim Anderson ready to unleash real self

GLENDALE, AZ --  There’s a different Tim Anderson at White Sox spring training this year.

You can see it on his face  You can hear it in his voice.

“I’m busting out of the shell. I’m talking more,” he said as he sat down for an interview with NBC Sports Chicago (in the video above).

It’s not the new Tim Anderson. It turns out, it’s the real one that’s been there all along.

“This is me. It’s always been me. I never knew how to express myself. I feel like I’m being a lot more open,” Anderson explained. “That’s what I want to give to fans. Let them know the real me. You’re cheering for me. Why not know me? I’m being open and kind of let fans into my life.”

The White Sox shortstop has learned a lot about life in the past year. It all started in May when the White Sox were in Baltimore to play the Orioles. Anderson received a phone call at 4 a.m. It was news from back home.

It was the worst phone call of his life.

His best friend Branden Moss had been murdered in the parking lot of a Tuscaloosa, Ala., bar after helping the victim of a fight.  

The two were like brothers. Anderson is the godfather to Moss’s young daughter. Moss was the godfather to Anderson’s 2-year-old daughter.

“It was heartbreaking,” Anderson said.

While Anderson grieved, playing baseball seemed like it would be a perfect escape for his pain. Only it wasn’t. Far from it.  Baseball might have made things even worse.

In fast-paced sports like football and hockey, players don’t have much time to think. It’s react, react, react. Whatever might be happening off the field feels like a million miles away.

Not in baseball.

The game moves at a much slower speed. There’s plenty of time for your mind to wander. Thoughts kept going back to Anderson’s lost friend, taken from him in an instant.

At 23, he didn’t have the tools to deal with the emotional pain and excel at baseball at the same time.

“The year was rough. I wasn’t having fun in between the lines. I was making the game harder than it was. I was thinking too much. I was feeling sorry for myself and the list can go on. When my friend died it definitely took a lot out of me. I had a dark moment,” Anderson said. “Some days I didn’t feel comfortable coming to the ballpark because I knew it was going to be a bad day.”

Making matters worse, there were many nights when Anderson didn’t sleep. Not a wink. Still, he dragged himself to the ballpark and somehow tried to play.

The results weren’t pretty. On June 22, Anderson already had 16 errors at shortstop, most in the majors. At the plate, he was hitting .256/.284/.374 with six home runs and 19 RBIs.

He knew he was better than that. He also knew something else: He needed help.

In July, Anderson started meeting with a therapist who was able to unlock the pent up thoughts and emotions that he was burying inside him.

The therapist would write down everything that Anderson was feeling on paper and then read it back to him.

“Just going in and talking and pouring everything out of you. It lets you hear what you’ve been going through,“ Anderson said. “When she did it, it was a lot. I took what she read to me, balled it up and threw it away. I got lighter. It was a brightening. Those counseling sessions definitely helped me.”

Soon, Anderson was back to being himself both on and off the field.

In the month of August, he had 8 doubles, 5 home runs and 16 RBI.

“Woof. I was hot,” he said after hearing those stats. “That’s Tim. That’s more Tim that we need to see.”

In September, he batted .327 with 3 home runs and 9 stolen bases.

“We need a lot of that this year. That’s the way I want to go. That’s the way I want to go about it. Get back to what got me here.”

There was still an issue with his plate discipline. He had 32 strikeouts and only 1 walk in September.

“We play a tough sport as it is. They’re going to come,” Anderson said about the walks. “I mean, when I walk more, what are you going to tell me? ‘Start swinging more?’ It’s one of those things. It’s a give and take. We’ll see what happens.”

In 2017, Anderson received a crash course in adversity. What did he learn from all that pain and misery?

“Tough times happen, but they don’t last forever.”

Now that he’s survived the personal storm from last season, he wants “another shot at it. I feel like last year went left. This is new season.”

So, what does he envision for himself in 2018?

“Having fun, smiling a lot, picking up my teammates, hugging on the coaches and players. A lot of love, more so than stats,” Anderson said. “I’m fired up. I’m excited. I feel like I’m ready to lead this pack. We got a great group of guys. We’ve got a chance to do something special.”