Jose Abreu

Jose Abreu's got a new beard, but what he really deserves is a contract extension

Jose Abreu's got a new beard, but what he really deserves is a contract extension

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Sunday marked the first surprise of White Sox spring training, courtesy of first baseman Jose Abreu.

“This year, I’m going to try to steal more bases,” Abreu said through a translator.

This might have sounded like a joke, but Abreu was completely serious.

On paper, he’s not exactly Rickey Henderson. In 614 career games, Abreu has only six stolen bases. However, the slimmed-down first baseman does have some sneaky speed. His six triples last season ranked third in the American League. So there are some wheels to work with.

“I like the challenge. I think that’s a good challenge for me. I’m ready for it,” Abreu said.

How many steals are we talking about? A reporter asked sarcastically if a 30-30 season is in the offing? Abreu didn’t exactly shoot down the possibility.

“Who knows? When you fill your mind with positive things, maybe you can accomplish them,” Abreu said. “The mind of a human being works in a lot of different ways. If you fill your mind with good things, good things are going to happen.”

The morning began with Abreu walking to the hitting cages with his Cuban compadres Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert, who the White Sox signed last summer. He held his first workout on Sunday. At the White Sox hitters camp last month, Moncada took Robert under his wing, showing him the ropes, even telling Ricky Renteria, “I got him.”

But Sunday, Abreu was in charge, holding court with the three of them in the cage. Abreu watched closely as Robert hit off a tee, giving him pointers about his swing.

“I just like to help people,” Abreu said. “When I started to play at 16 in Cuba, I had a lot people who hounded me to get better. At the same point, I want to give back things that I’ve learned and pass that along to other people. That’s what I’m doing. I’m not expecting anything else. I’m just glad to help them and get them better.”

What kind of advice has he passed along to Robert?

“Since I came to this country, I learned quickly three keys to be a success: Be disciplined, work hard and always be on time. If you apply those three keys, I think you’re going to be good. Those are the three keys I’m trying to teach the new kids, the young guys,” Abreu said.

Abreu lost about 10 pounds during the offseason. He said he hopes to learn more English in 2018. He also arrived at spring training sporting a scruffy beard which he grew while he was in Cuba so he “could be incongnito.”

Abreu likes his new look. Moncada thinks he should shave it off.

“If the organization doesn’t say anything, I’m just going to keep it,” Abreu said.

Well, so much for that.

Moments after Abreu spoke with the media, Renteria told reporters that Abreu will have to “clean it up a bit.”

The two will find a compromise. Come to think of it, maybe Abreu and the White Sox should do the same about a contract extension in the near future.

Yes, he’ll be 33 when his contract expires in two years, but there have been no signs of a decline with his performance. Instead, Abreu is only getting better both offensively and defensively.

Heck, now he wants to steal bases, too.

After Renteria, Abreu is the leader of this team. He commands ultimate respect inside the clubhouse. He’s become another coach to Moncada, Robert and others. He’s a huge brick in the present and too big of an influence and cornerstone to not have around in the future.

“I hope to play my entire career in the majors with the White Sox,” Abreu said Sunday. “But I can’t control that.”

At some point, a decision will have to be made whether to keep Abreu or trade him. In the meantime, ask yourself this question: What will bring more value to the White Sox, getting a high-end prospect or two in return not knowing if they’ll ever succeed in the majors? Or keeping your best player, the heart and soul of your team, allowing him to show your future stars the way while they’re developing in the major leagues?

Seems like an easy decision to me.

Jose Abreu has already begun mentoring Luis Robert

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USA TODAY

Jose Abreu has already begun mentoring Luis Robert

As the White Sox have added young Cuban stars in the making in Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert, Jose Abreu's long-term role on the team has shifted.

The 31-year-old first baseman has been looked at as something of a mentor for the two young Cubans. He seems to be delivering on that so far.

Abreu picked up Moncada from the airport when he first was called up to the White Sox last July. Now he's helping Robert in the batting cage.

The Cuban trio is expected to play a big part of the White Sox future in the coming years. 

Robert has already stated his goal of making it to the majors this year to join Abreu and Moncada, but that may be an overly ambitious goal. Either way, plenty of eyes will be on him throughout 2018 as he marches towards the White Sox roster and his Cuban teammates.

The White Sox all-time prospect team is sick

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AP

The White Sox all-time prospect team is sick

You know all about the current crop of White Sox prospects. Baseball America has five in its top 100. MLB Pipeline has seven.

But did you realize how many White Sox greats from the past three decades were rated as top-100 prospects?

Baseball Twitter had some fun earlier this week looking back at Baseball America's all-time top-100 prospect lists, the site's top-100 prospects for every year going back to 1990, and assembling all-time prospect squads for big league teams.

Well, I took a crack at assembling a 25-man roster for the White Sox, and it is very, very good.

Pre-2005 stars are well represented in this conversation, with guys like Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Lee and Ray Durham as no-doubt starters. But world champs like Tadahito Iguchi, Bobby Jenks and Jon Garland also made the cut. So too did a Hall of Famer in Frank Thomas and active players like Chris Sale, Jose Abreu and even Gio Gonzalez, who never pitched for the White Sox but had multiple stints in their farm system.

The choices were limited to guys who were ranked as top-100 prospects when they part of the White Sox organization. That, for example, is why you won't see Paul Konerko, who was a top-100 prospect (four times!) when he was part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.

Oh, and I also decided to leave off current prospects like Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez because there's no knowing what they'll be just yet. They might one day dominate this list. Though I did include current catching prospect Zack Collins backing up Tyler Flowers because those were the only two White Sox catchers on the lists.

Here's my 25-man team, and let me know if I left someone off you would've included. The full lists are right here. Just Ctrl+F "White Sox" — or any other team you choose — to zoom down the lists.

Pitchers

James Baldwin
John Danks
Jon Garland
Gio Gonzalez
Roberto Hernandez
Daniel Hudson
Bobby Jenks
Brandon McCarthy
Jon Rauch
Addison Reed
Carlos Rodon
Chris Sale

Catchers

Zack Collins
Tyler Flowers

Infielders

Jose Abreu
Gordon Beckham
Joe Crede
Ray Durham
Tadahito Iguchi
Robin Ventura

Outfielders

Mike Cameron
Carlos Lee
Magglio Ordonez
Ryan Sweeney

Designated hitter

Frank Thomas

And if I was forced to play manager and write up a starting lineup ...

1. Ray Durham, 2B
2. Mike Cameron, CF
3. Jose Abreu, 1B
4. Frank Thomas, DH
5. Magglio Ordonez, RF
6. Robin Ventura, 3B
7. Carlos Lee, LF
8. Gordon Beckham, SS
9. Tyler Flowers, C

Chris Sale, SP