White Sox

Jose Abreu is an All-Star starter and Silver Slugger, but will he be with the White Sox past 2019?

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Jose Abreu is an All-Star starter and Silver Slugger, but will he be with the White Sox past 2019?

It was Jose Abreu's worst season in the major leagues. And he still started the All-Star Game and won a Silver Slugger.

The White Sox have a decision to make at some point, though not necessarily this offseason, on what to do with Abreu in the long term. His on-field production isn't a question. His role as an off-field mentor isn't a question. But when Opening Day 2020 rolls around, he'll be 33 years old. Does that "align" — to borrow a word used very often by Rick Hahn at last week's GM Meetings — with the White Sox long-term plans?

Abreu's entering the final season of his current contract coming off a year defined as much by freak injuries and a prolonged slump as by the accolades he received in spite of those things. For the first time as a big leaguer, he finished a season without hitting at least 25 homers and racking up at least 100 RBIs. Only playing in 128 games, he posted career lows in most stat categories, with his 36 doubles, the second most in his career, a notable exception. His .473 slugging percentage was only the second lowest of his five-year major league career.

But if the awards were any indication — though it should be added there was a dearth of productive first basemen in the American League last season — he still has the ability to be one of the game's best at his position. His 162-game average over the course of the past five seasons: a .295/.353/.516 slash line with 32 home runs and 107 RBIs. Three times in five seasons, Abreu has received MVP votes, finishing as high as fourth during his Rookie of the Year season in 2014.

And on top of all those numbers, Abreu has earned consistent praise for his role off the field. He's been an omnipresent mentor to Yoan Moncada, who's not even two years removed from being the No. 1 prospect in baseball, with the two Cubans' lockers right next to each other in the White Sox clubhouse. And Abreu is touted as an example to all the team's young players, who can look to him as a model for how to go about one's business and prepare on a daily basis.

So the value is obvious. But in order to make a decision on Abreu, the White Sox have to figure out when their planned contention window is going to open. Significant injuries to a host of their highly touted prospects — most notably the elbow injury that forced Michael Kopech into Tommy John surgery — has muddied the waters when it comes to predicting when this wave of minor league talent will was ashore on the South Side.

If that year is soon, if it's still 2020, then having a 33-year-old Abreu in the middle of the order doesn't seem like a bad thing at all. But in order to make that happen, the White Sox will need to give him a contract extension at some point before this time next year, or they'll have to give him a new contract if he were to reach the free-agent market. If the year when the contention window opens is much past 2020, how old is too old to help the White Sox make a championship run? When does the dropoff in production that comes with most aging players arrive?

The White Sox talk highly of Abreu, giving no indication they plan to move on from the guy they spent lavishly on after the 2013 season. And for his part, Abreu continues to talk glowingly about the White Sox and remains committed to saying that he hopes to be in Chicago for the foreseeable future.

"Everybody knows that 2019 is going to be the last season of my current contract, but I try not to think about that because I am part of the White Sox and I believe that I’m going to be part of this organization for a very long time," he said through a translator during a Tuesday conference call with reporters. "That’s something that’s out of my hands right now because I have one season left on this current contract.

"But in case the next season is my last one, I’d like to thank all the White Sox organization and all the people who have been around me during my time on this team, especially the owner, Jerry (Reinsdorf). He has been an outstanding person to me. He’s one of the greatest people that I’ve met in this country.

"But I try not to think about that because I truly believe that I’m going to be part of this organization for a very long time. But we’ll see. I know that this is a business, and that’s the way you have to approach it."

That answer to a reporter's question covered all the bases, a masterclass in the public-relations friendly response. But Abreu does always come off as someone who wants to stick with this team. He knows what's going on in the minor league system and he knows how bright the White Sox future is.

And the White Sox know what Abreu can do. Their reported desire to trade Avisail Garcia might be an indication they're ready to move on from their older players, but Garcia and Abreu are vastly different cases, with Abreu far more productive on the field and more commonly discussed as an asset to the young players off it.

During the 2017 season, the decision on Abreu seemed an easy one for the White Sox: Keep this extraordinarily productive player and team leader around as long as you can. But injuries might have made that decision more difficult — and not the freak ones Abreu suffered during the season, but the ones suffered by prospects that might have changed the timeline of this whole thing, and therefore the "alignment" of Abreu and this team's bright future.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Carlos Rodon says it's time to s**t or get off the pot

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Carlos Rodon says it's time to s**t or get off the pot

In a candid interview with Chuck Garfien, White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon talks about the rebuild, his struggles last season, Manny Machado and more.

He explains his troubles from last September (04:04), if he thinks he deserves to be the White Sox Opening Day starter (07:34), why it's time for the White Sox to start winning (08:20), if the White Sox did everything they could to sign Manny Machado (10:32) and more.

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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Carlos Rodon is ready for White Sox to start winning: 'There's a point in time where it's s**t or get off the pot'

Carlos Rodon is ready for White Sox to start winning: 'There's a point in time where it's s**t or get off the pot'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Even though the White Sox failed in their attempt to sign Manny Machado, spring training goes on.

There’s a season to be played. Machado certainly would have helped in 2019, but as someone who was here before the rebuild began and hopes to play a big role with the White Sox when their contending window opens, Carlos Rodon says it’s time.

It’s time for the White Sox to start winning.

“There’s a point in time where it’s s**t or get off the pot, man. I mean, there’s a point where you’ve got to make a turn,” Rodon said in an interview on the White Sox Talk Podcast. “I’ve been on teams like this before, not in the big leagues, but during my younger baseball career, where they’re OK or weren’t good at all, and there’s a point where the team turned and we became great or just winners. We just came together and it just happened. It’s got to happen soon. We’ve got to start picking up some ground. This is about winning, and I get the whole ‘there’s a process to winning,' and I agree a hundred percent with Rick (Hahn), but it’s time.”

Rodon isn’t promising an AL Central crown in 2019, but if White Sox fans are starting to feel a little itchy after 195 losses in the first two seasons of the rebuild, you’re not alone. Rodon feels your impatience.

The impressive prospects that Hahn and the front office have signed or acquired are starting to find their way to the majors, but is there enough talent in the clubhouse right now to answer Rodon’s hope of turning the corner in 2019?

“These guys are here for a reason, so I believe in every guy beside me in this locker room. I think we have the ability. I’ve always liked being the underdog. I’ve always liked being the guy that has something to prove. It just gives you a little fire,” Rodon said.

For the White Sox to take that next step, several players must start reaching their potential. Rodon includes himself in this category.

Coming back from shoulder surgery last season, Rodon returned in mid-summer and showed flashes of that ace the White Sox envisioned he’d become when they picked him third overall in the 2014 draft.

He combined to go 5-0 with a 1.84 ERA in July and August. What happened in September?

“For a lack of a better term, I s**t my pants. It seems like it always happens. Right in the middle of August and July, I get on a good run and then I s**t my pants,” said Rodon, who went 0-5 with a 9.22 ERA in the final month of the season.

What went wrong?

“I don’t know. I try to do too much. I have stuff that I don’t have to throw that 96 (mph) up there all the time. Just kind of let it work. Something I was working on today just kind of smoothing it out. I try to do more than I should when what I have is already good enough,” said Rodon, who turned 26 in December. “It’s just being young, I guess you could say. Still learning how to pitch.”

Entering his fifth season in the majors and holding the most seniority in the White Sox starting rotation, Rodon could be in line to start for the White Sox on Opening Day. But ask him if he thinks he’ll get the ball when they begin the season March 28 in Kansas City, he gives a very honest answer.

“It would mean a lot, but I feel like I haven’t really deserved it. I haven’t really earned it,” Rodon explained. “But if I am the Opening Day starter, I’ll take it with pride and go out there and compete. I’m not going to lie to you, I don’t feel like I’ve truly earned a top-of-the-rotation kind of guy, but that’s because we have a young rotation and I guess you could say (I have) most of the experience except for Ivan (Nova).”

While many White Sox fans would have loved to have seen Machado in a White Sox uniform on Opening Day, Rodon doesn’t fault the front office in their attempt to sign the All-Star free agent.

“Guys that make it to free agency have been in the big leagues for six years and they’ve earned the right to decide where they want to go. Now granted, I commend Rick, Jerry (Reinsdorf) and Kenny (Williams) and all of the guys in the front office that put in all of the hard work to try to make a run at Machado. They should be able to go home at night and sleep well because they did everything they could. It’s not up to us. The player still has a decision. He has a decision to make and he decided to go a different route and we did everything we could, so there’s nothing you can do about it. Something you move on from and the season continues,” Rodon said.

Do you believe the White Sox did everything they could to get Machado?

“I believe we did. I think we did, so they say. And I’m going to go with that. I trust what they say.”

And trust Rodon when he says it’s time for the White Sox to turn things around. There’s a clubhouse filled with players who feel the same way.

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