White Sox

After returning from Cuba, White Sox Jose Abreu ‘ready to give his all’ in 2016

joseabreugiveall012916.png

After returning from Cuba, White Sox Jose Abreu ‘ready to give his all’ in 2016

Since coming to the United States in 2013, life has been pretty good for White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu.

He’s one of only two players (Albert Pujols being the other) who has hit at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI in their first two seasons in the majors. He won Rookie of the Year in 2014, became a fan favorite on the South Side, getting arguably the loudest cheer at SoxFest 2016 when he was announced at the Opening Ceremony and, on a personal note, got married in November.

But in his two years in the majors, there was one thing Abreu, who turned 29 today, had yet to check off his list: return to Cuba.

Accomplishing that feat was easier said than done for Abreu. Cuba prohibited defectors like Abreu from returning to the country for at least eight years. But MLB and the Cuban government were able to construct a good-will tour that allowed players on the trip to return to Cuba and see their families. CSN was able to document Abreu’s emotional return in “Going Home: Jose Abreu” as he received a welcome fit for a king. “Pito,” as he’s known in Cuba, said he’s very grateful for everyone who made the trip happen.

[SHOP: Buy a Jose Abreu jersey]

“It's a beautiful, beautiful feeling," Abreu said through a translator. "We have a lot of loved ones who we had to leave behind at some point in order to fulfill my dream to play professional baseball but the most important thing is that I got to come back and I thank God everyone is doing well”

Abreu’s 2015 season (30 HR 101 RBI .290 BA) in some ways was even more impressive than his rookie year (36 HR 107 RBI .317 BA). Pitchers now had enough film on the White Sox slugger to figure out the right way to approach facing him and Abreu was also surrounded by an offense that took a step back in 2015. 

White Sox GM Rick Hahn made a concerted effort to improve the lineup this offseason adding bats like third baseman Todd Frazier, who won the Home Run Derby, and second baseman Brett Lawrie, who hit more home runs than anyone else on the White Sox in 2015 outside of Abreu. Frazier, in particular, has Abreu excited for the potential of the team’s lineup this year.

[RELATED: Analysts think White Sox are ready to compete in 2016]

“Everyone knows about the importance of having a guy like Todd on the White Sox," Abreu said. "We are familiar with his skill set and believe me, he is very important to us. We couldn’t be happier to have him on this team.”

Nobody associated with the White Sox liked the taste of how last season ended (which was made even more clear by a few faint boos from fans during introductions at the Opening Ceremony). For Abreu, the next task to cross off on his list of accomplishments is to help lead his team to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. 

“For our team the most important thing is to compete," Abreu said. "Compete day by day and believe in what we can accomplish as a team. We have a good core of players. Personally I just want to stay healthy and obtain good results.

“Believe me my batteries are charged 100 percent and I am ready to give my all this upcoming season.”

Will an arbitration raise price Yolmer Sanchez off the White Sox 2020 roster?

1015_yolmer_sanchez.jpg
USA TODAY

Will an arbitration raise price Yolmer Sanchez off the White Sox 2020 roster?

Yolmer Sanchez could win a Gold Glove in the coming weeks. He could also be looking for a new job.

That’s the tough situation the White Sox face with the guy who served as their starting second baseman during the 2019 season. He did a very, very nice job of playing second base, too. Not sure what your defensive metric of choice is, but the commonly used defensive runs saved (DRS) stat says Sanchez was the best defensive second baseman in the American League and the second best in baseball, behind only Kolten Wong of the St. Louis Cardinals.

But the offensive numbers are the offensive numbers, the only reason we’re not calling Sanchez a slam-dunk Gold Glove winner, as that award has a habit of honoring the defensively and offensively gifted instead of just the defensive aces. Sanchez slashed .252/.318/.321 in 2019 with two home runs and 43 RBIs. The 10 triples he hit in 2018 to lead the AL dropped to four in 2019, and his doubles plummeted from 34 to 20.

With hotshot prospect Nick Madrigal — who has his own reputation as a sensational defender, the newly minted winner of a minor league Gold Glove — figuring to take over at second base in the early portion of the 2020 season, Sanchez’s time was already running out as far as being an everyday major leaguer. But Madrigal’s ascent isn’t the reason the White Sox might be forced to part ways with Sanchez this winter. Money is.

Sanchez is set to receive a multi-million-dollar raise through the arbitration process, something we figured was coming for a while now. But MLB Trade Rumors put a dollar amount on that raise last week, when the site released its annual arbitration projections. Sanchez made $4.625 million in 2019. In 2020, so says MLB Trade Rumors, he’s set to make $6.2 million through the arbitration process.

And that will likely price him off the White Sox roster.

Sanchez has plenty of value to this White Sox team, to be sure. He’s a great clubhouse presence, a versatile infielder and a guy who plays great defense. Manager Rick Renteria lauded the quality of Sanchez’s at-bats at the end of the season. But $6.2 million is probably just too much to pay for a backup infielder who doesn’t do much in the way of hitting, especially with that money needed to do so much more for the White Sox during what's expected to be a busy and important offseason.

It's not like the team won't be covered. The White Sox can hang onto Leury Garcia, who MLB Trade Rumors projected is due for a $4 million payday through arbitration. Garcia not only plays all the infield positions Sanchez plays, if not as exceptionally, but can play all three outfield spots, too. Danny Mendick can stick around for a fraction of the cost and man second base until Madrigal arrives from the minor leagues, perhaps even sticking around as the backup infielder Sanchez would be after that.

It’s all part of the shifting landscape with a White Sox team looking to transition from rebuilding to contending. As many fans as Sanchez deservedly won with his fun-loving personality and Gatorade-bucket related antics during postgame celebrations, he’s an example of the kind of light-hitting player the White Sox will continue to move on from as their roster simply gets better. You can expect Sanchez to be just one of those fading figures. A contending lineup probably doesn't have much room for the Adam Engels and Ryan Cordells and Daniel Palkas and Matt Skoles, either, as the front office look to stuff the roster with young, core players like Madrigal and Luis Robert as well as bigger-name offseason additions in the coming months.

As for the rest of the arbitration-eligible White Sox the front office will have to either commit to or non-tender, most would figure to be easy decisions. James McCann is projected to receive $4.9 million, Carlos Rodon is projected to receive $4.5 million, Evan Marshall is projected to receive $1.3 million. Those are all affordable salaries for a starting catcher, a starting pitcher and a reliever coming off a strong season. Likewise, after he was used 57 times, Josh Osich could certainly return to the bullpen mix. He's projected to get $1 million.

Conversations might be had about whether Alex Colome is worth a projected $10.3 million, but he has racked up 126 saves in the last four seasons and just finished the 2019 campaign with a 2.80 ERA, his lowest since 2016. He saved 30 games in 33 attempts, one of the best conversation rates in the game, and though his 3.91 second-half ERA compares rather poorly to his 2.02 first-half ERA, he remains one of the more reliable late-inning men around. It’s a safe bet he’ll be back, considering the White Sox didn’t deal him at the trade deadline like they did with their closers in the two seasons prior — and certainly they knew an arbitration raise would be coming when they made that decision.

The only other name heretofore unaddressed is Ryan Goins, who like Garcia boasts positional versatility in both the infield and outfield. He played six positions, including designated hitter, for the White Sox in his 52 games with the big league club this season. His projection is a very affordable $900,000, but he turned in a less-than-memorable offensive season. We'll see what happens there.

Now, remember these are projections, so if the White Sox offer these guys contracts and avoid arbitration altogether, the final numbers could obviously be different. But like Avisail Garcia last offseason, perhaps Sanchez is a victim of the projected increase in salary more than any lack of desire to keep him around, a rather large element when looking to project the White Sox bench for the 2020 season.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Myths about the 1919 Black Sox 100 years later

shoeless-joe-ap.jpg
AP

White Sox Talk Podcast: Myths about the 1919 Black Sox 100 years later

Chuck Garfien and Chris Kamka speak with Black Sox historian Jacob Pomrenke about the biggest myths surrounding the infamous 1919 Black Sox who fixed the World Series (2:30).

Gambling wasn't limited to the White Sox back then. Even Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker threw a game? (10:30)

The role of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson in the fix. (19:20)

Could Jackson ever get into the Hall of Fame? (27:00)

Could a World Series be fixed in today's game? (33:00)

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

White Sox Talk Podcast

Subscribe: