White Sox

Jose Abreu wins the RBI crown and believes he'll be back with White Sox in 2020

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USA TODAY

Jose Abreu wins the RBI crown and believes he'll be back with White Sox in 2020

Jose Abreu's mom holds a lot of sway.

Back when Rick Renteria gave Abreu one of his two days off this season, he knew he'd have to explain to Abreu's mom why her son wasn't in the lineup. And it sounds like she might have even more power than we think.

Asked if he believed he'd be back in a White Sox uniform next season, the American League RBI champ kind of made it sound like it wasn't up to him.

"Yes sir," he replied, "because Mom is happy."

All kidding aside, it hasn't been at all difficult to figure out what Abreu, slated to hit free agency, wants because he's been telling us all season. He badly wants to stay on the South Side to be a part of the franchise's planned transition from rebuilding to contending. He's pledged on multiple occasions that if the White Sox don't re-sign him, he'll sign himself to a contract and play here anyway. He revealed that team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf promised him he'd never play in another uniform.

It's long seemed a foregone conclusion that this generation's "Mr. White Sox" will be suiting up in the same colors he has for the past six seasons when 2020 rolls around, and his tune didn't change one bit on the final day of the 2019 season.

"Everybody knows my wishes and my desire to stay here," he said through team interpreter Billy Russo. "This is an organization I respect. This is an organization I really honor. Right now, I’m going to take a few days off with my family. And we are open. We are open to discuss. I want to be here, and you know guys, I’ve been telling you that. Hopefully I’m going to be here."

General manager Rick Hahn said earlier this season that it was "very likely" Abreu would be around for the planned good times after spending six losing seasons on the South Side. Manager Rick Renteria said recently that he cannot even envision the White Sox making their shift into winning baseball without Abreu.

Sunday, his teammates got in on the act. Tim Anderson, the newly minted major league batting champ, told Our Chuck Garfien that he'd be "very disappointed" if Abreu didn't return. Eloy Jimenez stood behind reporters while Abreu talked about the 123 RBIs that led the AL this season, jumping up and down and cheering when Abreu said he believed he'd be back in 2020.

Those were just the latest examples of the way these White Sox feel about Abreu, a player long praised as a role model and mentor for the team's ever-growing number of impact youngsters. Yoan Moncada never has enough good things to say about the guy who's been mentoring him for three years. Jimenez said earlier this season that Abreu has been like a father to him. Luis Robert, the organization's No. 1 prospect and a fellow Cuban, figures to join Abreu's group of acolytes next season.

And all along, Abreu has returned the love, thanking the organization at every turn as he hits personal and franchise milestones. This has been one of his most productive seasons yet, if that RBI crown is any indication, though he's spent it looking forward to what comes next, as giddy and excited about the bright future on the South Side as anyone. It's clear his relationship with the youngsters is a two-way street, as he's often more excited about their achievements than they are.

In one of his more recent acts as a team leader, he declared at the beginning of the month that "the 2020 season, it starts in September." The core of this team backed those words up, with Abreu, Moncada, Anderson and Jimenez all contributing significantly to a sensational month for the White Sox offense. Abreu believes it shows what's coming next season.

"It’s very good. We finished winning, right?" he said. "We played very good baseball in September. This is just a little proof of what we are able to do next year. Hopefully next year we are going to be much better than what we showed in September. We are going to be very good, and I’m very happy."

In yet another season packed with accomplishments — the RBI crown followed a second straight All-Star appearance, with a second straight Silver Slugger a possibility after the season — Abreu is ready for the team to take a big step in 2020, a step the organization as a whole believes is possible. The ingredients are there for the long-awaited transition from rebuilding to contending to happen. Abreu figures to be one of those ingredients, even if he didn't have a new contract in hand as he departed Guaranteed Rate Field on Sunday.

But if Abreu's mom has anything to say about it, there will be one real soon.

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White Sox free agent focus: Turning to Marcell Ozuna to fill out the outfield

White Sox free agent focus: Turning to Marcell Ozuna to fill out the outfield

Baseball free agency is heating up as the weather gets colder. This week we are breaking down 10 potential free-agent targets for the White Sox ahead of the Winter Meetings.

Marcell Ozuna, OF, Cardinals

Age: 29

2019 salary: $12,250,000

2019 stats: .241 BA, .328 OBP, .472 SLG, .800 OPS, 29 HR, 89 RBI, 80 R, 12/14 SB 

What Ozuna would bring to the White Sox

Ozuna appeared on the verge of becoming an elite star like Anthony Rendon after a breakout season in 2017 with the Marlins. Ozuna came up at 22 and had decent years early in his career. He improved upon his first few years with 37 home runs, 124 RBIs and a .924 OPS as a 26-year-old.

Unlike Rendon, who broke through in 2017 and has sustained that for three seasons now, Ozuna's breakout year appears to be more of a flash in the pan. Ozuna was traded to the Cardinals before the 2018 season and saw a dropoff in his production.

His power and walk rate took big dips in 2018, although he bounced back in both last season. However, he hit .241, which was the lowest batting average of his career.

Ozuna had a career-high walk rate (11.3%) and had the second-best extra-base hit and home run rates of his career (he was only better in those areas in 2017). His strikeout rate (20.8%) was in line with his career average. So what went wrong? His batting average of balls in play was a career-worst .257, which suggests that maybe he's due for some form of bounce back in 2020 as far as batting average.

To simplify all that, Ozuna was good in some areas and inexplicably poor (and maybe unlucky) in others. Does that mean he will return to his big 2017 year wherever he signs? Probably not, but it does help to alleviate some of the feeling of risk for a player who has been inconsistent in his career.

Defensively, Ozuna has a Gold Glove on his resume from 2017, but the stats say he's just an average fielder. Not to mention, he's become infamous for this fielding gaffe.


What it would take to get him

He's young with a mostly positive track record offensively and if he can recreate his 2017 season offensively, he's an all-star outfielder. He won't be cheap, but he has enough question marks to come up just short of $20 million per year.

Ozuna should be able to get four or five years in the mid-to-upper teens per year, similar to fellow outfield free agent Nicholas Castellanos.

Why it's a fit for the White Sox

The White Sox need a corner outfielder. He fills a position of need, adds depth, patience and power to the lineup and won't be a liability in the field.

Ozuna isn't the splashiest signing the White Sox could make, but it makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons.

Latest rumors

White Sox add flamethrowing Tayron Guerrero to bullpen

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USA TODAY

White Sox add flamethrowing Tayron Guerrero to bullpen

The White Sox added a flamethrower to their bullpen.

Tayron Guerrero is the newest member of the White Sox relief corps, the team claiming the 28-year-old right-hander off waivers from the Miami Marlins on Friday.

Guerrero's most eye-catching attribute is his triple-digit fastball. He averaged 98.9 mph on his four-seam fastball in 2019 and threw the second most 100-mph pitches (178) of any pitcher in baseball. He posted a 10.6 K/9 in 2018.

But throwing hard and giving up runs are two different things. In 2019, Guerrero had a 6.26 ERA, a number that jumped up from the already less-than-ideal 5.43 ERA he turned in a year prior. He also had some trouble locating said fireball, walking 36 batters in 46 relief innings in 2019 for a ridiculously high 7.0 BB/9.

Still, this type of addition was signaled as perhaps the primary way the White Sox would add to their bullpen this offseason. With so many other items on Rick Hahn's offseason to-do list and the back end of the bullpen being a pretty stable part of the roster, the general manager said that small signings and waiver claims would continue to be part of the strategy when it comes to making additions to the relief corps.

Hahn referenced the team's acquisitions of Evan Marshall, who was signed to a minor league contract last winter, and Jimmy Cordero, who was claimed off waivers in the middle of the 2019 season, as moves to emulate going forward.

"All 30 teams will tell you ... that adding more bullpen pieces is an offseason priority, and we're no exception," Hahn said during his end-of-season press conference in September. "Cordero's been a nice find, as has been Marshall, but that's not going to stop us from continuing to potentially take guys off waivers like Cordero or (sign) minor league free agents like Marshall.

"It's going to go into this offseason continuing to be a place we want to add because relievers are tricky. You see it every year, guys go from the top of the list to the bottom and back."

As Hahn frequently says, you can never have too much pitching, and while this might be a low-risk move, it could end up proving fruitful, as those Cordero and Marshall moves did.

Spending on money on more proven guys has also been a part of the White Sox strategy in this department in the recent past. Hahn's front office gave Kelvin Herrera a two-year deal just last winter. But as Herrera showed during a rough first year of that contract, even guys with good track records can lead to easy second-guessing on those kinds of deals. So building up depth through less splashy means figures to be a good idea, regardless of the results.

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