White Sox

Joining Hall-of-Fame company the latest feat for Jose Abreu, White Sox model of consistency

Joining Hall-of-Fame company the latest feat for Jose Abreu, White Sox model of consistency

Just how valuable is Jose Abreu to the White Sox?

Well, whenever you join Albert Pujols and Joe DiMaggio as the only baseball players ever to do something, you must be pretty darn valuable.

Abreu joined that elite company Saturday night, driving in both runs in the White Sox forgettable 8-2 loss to the visiting Kansas City Royals. Those RBIs brought his total to 100 on the season, making him the third major leaguer ever to hit at least 25 homers and drive in at least 100 runs in his first four seasons.

“Every year after a season I meet with my family and we review my season and my stats. Last year when we had the meeting, I told them next year I’m gonna hit 30 homers, I’m gonna drive in at least 100 and I did it,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “I was able to do it and that’s something that made me feel proud of myself and proud of my family, too, because they have been the ones who have been supported me through my whole career."

Abreu’s known as an extremely hard worker, a template to follow for many if not all of the youngsters coming up as the future stars of the White Sox rebuild. And so it makes this moment all the sweeter for him and those around him.

“It is especially important not just for me but for my family and my team,” Abreu said. “I think that this is a reward for the effort and all the work you put in for preparation for your season. It’s special when you get this kind of result and consistency in your stats. But the most important thing is it’s a reward for my family. And this organization, maybe we are not in the position we want to be right now as a team, but I know that better times are to come.”

“He works extremely hard,” manager Rick Renteria said. “I think everybody was feeling it for him tonight. He’s been pushing. He fouled a ball off of his left shin the other day, and you see him kind of gimping around there. … He’s not one to do anything to deter from continuing to help the team win first and foremost, but along the way he’s able to collect some individual merit points, so to speak. And put himself in a very special class.”

The big question surrounding Abreu isn’t whether he’s worthy of being the leader the young White Sox of the future need to turn rebuilding mode into contending mode a few years down the line. The question is whether he’ll still be around by then. His final year of arbitration is 2019, meaning if the White Sox are looking at 2020 as the year of true contention, it will take a new contract to keep Abreu in town.

A few things factor into that, of course. No. 1, Abreu could continue this consistently terrific pace and be lured away by another team willing to spend more to acquire his services. No. 2, though, is his age. He’ll be 33 years old when the 2020 season starts, and while that’s not old by most standards, it means he’ll demand a big contract — and likely a lengthy one — as he reaches the latter part of his prime. It’s not to suggest Abreu will dramatically slow down in terms of production, but it will most definitely be under consideration as the White Sox look to keep their window of contention open as long as possible.

For what it’s worth, Abreu is constantly thanking the White Sox organization for the opportunity to do what he’s done over the past four seasons, and he’s said how much he wants to keep playing for this franchise.

What is of no question, however, is Abreu’s worth as a top-of-the-line offensive player. His totals with a week’s worth of games left in the 2017 season: 31 homers, 100 RBIs and a .305/.356/.551 slash line. All those percentages would be his highest since his outstanding rookie season in 2014.

And his worth as a leader, as a guy who could be a rallying point for all these young players, that’s pretty darn valuable, too.

“I haven’t (tonight) made light of what I believe he’s becoming as part of this organization and what he is as far as what he does for the team,” Renteria said. “You got a couple of young men in there that are growing up and becoming a part of what I believe are leaders within that clubhouse. And he’s one of them. He’s certainly deserves it. He’s earned it. He’s worked for it. He’s been in this organization since the inception of his major league career. He’s someone that we all are happy is a part of us.”

The Manny Machado rumors won't stop, even if a deal still seems to make little sense for White Sox right now

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USA TODAY

The Manny Machado rumors won't stop, even if a deal still seems to make little sense for White Sox right now

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Is it "conceivable" the White Sox would make a deal for a young, talented player who has limited team control remaining but could immediately be extended?

"Is it conceivable?" White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Wednesday at the Winter Meetings. "Yes."

You might not want to get your hopes up too high, considering just about everything is "conceivable" in the leave-every-door-open world that is building a baseball team. But if the above description sounds familiar, you can most definitely apply it to Manny Machado, the Baltimore Orioles' star third baseman who has been the subject of many a rumor this week at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort.

Machado is set to be one of the headlining names of next offseason's bonkers free-agent class, and the Orioles are reportedly trying to get something for him before he walks away for what's expected to be a massive payday. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported earlier this week that the O's were actively shopping their superstar, which of course set the Twitter machine on fire.

White Sox fans have long coveted Machado, what with the rebuilding organization boasting no third basemen among their top-of-the-line prospects — though it's important to note Rosenthal also reported that Machado wants to play shortstop — and the beginning of the team's contending window rapidly approaching and perhaps even coinciding with the 2019 free-agent class, depending on what happens development-wise in 2018. So they were extra excited when a Baltimore writer tweeted Wednesday that the White Sox were one of the teams that made a trade offer to the Orioles.

Now this might or might not be a reflection of reality. Hahn spent a good portion of his media session Tuesday talking about how a player would have to be under team control for a long time for the White Sox to consider parting with any of their recently acquired minor league talent, pieces that have fired up the fan base and created an appealing outlook for the future. The team's carefully laid rebuilding plans involve the likes of Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito, Eloy Jimenez, Reynaldo Lopez, Luis Robert, Alec Hansen, Micker Adolfo and Dane Dunning, and it seems incredibly risky — if not downright foolish — to blow those plans up just a year into the rebuild to acquire, yes, a great player but one who is only guaranteed to be on the team that acquires him for one season.

But Hahn's response to a creatively worded question about a player fitting the description of Machado on Wednesday left the door open for the White Sox applying the strategy of acquiring a player who has little team control remaining and signing him to an extension right away. Again, there'd be no guarantee that the hypothetical acquisition of Machado would result in an extension. But Hahn pointed to there being different ways of acquiring pieces that set the team up for long-term success.

And Hahn agreed that it might be easier to sign someone fitting Machado's description to an extension if he was part of the team for a season.

"Sometimes you need to be creative. Sometimes you need to perhaps take a risk," Hahn said. "I think it’s probably slightly easier after a player has been part of this organization, understand what we’re about, to extend him as opposed to meeting him cold free agent and trying to sell him on the organization. We’ve had success with both, so we’re not afraid to do either, but perhaps there is a little advantage from time to time to have a guy already be on campus when you’re talking about extending him into the future.

"You guys have heard from a many of players how much they enjoy being with us, how they want to stay here, they want to be part of this rebuild. That’s in part due to the type of guys we’ve brought in and in part due to the culture and direction we’ve created."

Now, it would seem that Machado — like any player — would be itching to test the free-agency waters and receive the most monstrous contract offer he could. And it's for that reason that any White Sox deal would be such a huge gamble. Not only would Hahn be dealing away some of the talent — and not any insignificant amount of that talent — that's helped build the White Sox into the highest-rated minor league system in the game. But he'd be doing it with no guarantee of anything but one season of Machado, one season in which the White Sox are not expected to compete.

Hahn also said this Tuesday: "We’re not looking at stopgaps, we’re not looking to jump up and contend for one wild card and then regress back. We’re trying to build something that’s going to last, and extended control is part of that."

A Machado deal still doesn't seem to make sense right now for the White Sox. Hahn has spent the Winter Meetings up to this point talking almost exclusively about how it's time for the team to sit back and let its minor league talent develop. But that isn't going to stop the rumors from flying. That isn't going to stop the Twitter conversation from happening. And even for the White Sox themselves, it might not stop the door from completely closing.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Rick Hahn says to expect things to be a lot more interesting at next year's Winter Meetings

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Rick Hahn says to expect things to be a lot more interesting at next year's Winter Meetings

On Day 3 of the MLB Winter Meetings, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn came on the podcast to talk with Chuck Garfien about the White Sox offseason plans and their future.  

Among the topics: the trade market for Jose Abreu, rebuilding the bullpen and possible free-agent pitchers the White Sox might sign (Garfien gives Hahn a couple suggestions). Hahn also explains why next offseason the White Sox will be more active with moves, and he promises to come on a future remote White Sox Talk Podcast as long as there is karaoke. Then, Vinnie Duber of NBC Sports Chicago joins the podcast to talk about Jerry Reinsdorf saying it will be “a joke” if Jim Thome doesn’t make the Hall of Fame on the first ballot and why the White Sox likely won’t trade for Manny Machado.

Listen to the latest episode below: