For any questions about whether White Sox first baseman José Abreu wants to continue playing in 2023, he answered them emphatically on Tuesday.
“Claro!” the White Sox first baseman said.
“Of course,” Abreu then added through team interpreter Billy Russo. “I love baseball. I love the game even more now than when I started.”
Whether he stays with the White Sox is, well, an entirely different question.
Abreu’s future on the South Side is uncertain, and his status is one of the bigger question marks for the White Sox coming off a massively disappointing 2022 season.
He’s set to become a free agent with the expiration of the three-year, $50 million deal he signed after the 2019 campaign.
Abreu said he hasn’t had any conversations with the front office yet about a new contract.
“We have not talked about it,” Abreu said. “I think the goal right now is just to finish the season, to finish the season strong and healthy.
“Once the season is over, take some time to think, rest and we'll go from there.”
Abreu has been a White Sox staple since signing with the team entering the 2014 season, and he’s maintained his All-Star level production as he’s gotten older.
Abreu, 36 in January, has hit .304/.378/.445 with 15 home runs and 75 RBIs (both of which would be fewest in a 162-game season).
How much longer does he want to play?
“I'm still hungry about the game,” Abreu said. “Once I lose that, then I know that it's time.”
From a team perspective, general manager Rick Hahn was complimentary Monday of Abreu’s impact in his nine seasons with the White Sox, calling him “exemplary” with how he has represented the organization.
But Hahn also was non-committal when asked about the first baseman’s 2023 status.
“No matter what the future holds for him here or elsewhere, I don’t think you are ever going to hear anyone with this organization say a bad word about José,” Hahn said. “Nothing but admiration and respect for the professionalism and the way he’s carried himself both on the field and off.
“How it fits going forward, that remains to be seen come this offseason.”
The White Sox roster this season was loaded with first baseman/designated hitters, causing them to play guys out of position, like Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets in the outfield.
“Obviously there’s only so many different ways that you can fit various players on the roster and José returning would have a ripple effect on others,” Hahn said. “But we’ll have to wait to see how things unfold and make those decisions accordingly.”
Whether there are questions about Abreu maintaining his production and durability as he ages, or whether it’s time to move forward with younger options, moving on from him is easier said than done.
It would mean the White Sox jettisoning arguably their most productive position player, and a guy who was almost always available as the Sox battled injury issues. Abreu by far leads the team in games played.
None of that mentions the leadership he brings to the clubhouse.
With all the uncertainty, Abreu on Tuesday expressed his gratitude and loyalty to chairman Jerry Reinsdorf for “the opportunity to play here,” adding he “always will be grateful for that opportunity.”
As for the significance of the final two games potentially being his last with the Sox, Abreu didn’t want to look that far ahead.
“I am a person that, I don't like goodbyes,” Abreu said. “I'm going to enjoy this, I'm going to be a White Sox [Wednesday], too, and then we'll go from there.”
Whether this week proves to be goodbye, Abreu has a message for White Sox fans.
“I want to thank them for all the support, for always having my back,” he said. “These were a special nine years and I hope that there can be more.
“But up to now it's been very special and I'm going to be forever grateful for them.”