White Sox

Jose Abreu's return to White Sox seems a foregone conclusion: 'I think it's only right'


Jose Abreu's return to White Sox seems a foregone conclusion: 'I think it's only right'

Can Rick Renteria imagine the White Sox shifting into contention mode without Jose Abreu?

“No,” he said in a rapid-fire response before the start of the team’s final homestand.

It’s that easy an answer for the White Sox manager, who’s been one of a large and enthusiastic chorus of teammates, managers, coaches, front-office members and fans that continues to sing the praises of Abreu, the three-time All-Star first baseman slated to hit free agency after the 2019 season.

The 2019 season, of course, only has six days remaining for these White Sox, and Abreu’s future is still officially unknown. Though despite making it clear that his front office would have no contract extensions to announce during the season, the words of general manager Rick Hahn and many others have made an Abreu union seem like a foregone conclusion all summer.

“He’s been here throughout the early stages of this rebuild,” Hahn said during an MLB Network interview in May, “and it’s certainly very likely that he’ll be here for the more enjoyable stages that lie ahead of us.”

Abreu has spent six remarkably productive seasons on the South Side, with the 2019 campaign being one of his most productive. He’s the American League’s RBI leader after smashing the career high he set in his first big league season in 2014. If he manages three more home runs in the White Sox final seven games this week, he’ll match his career high in that category, too.

Abreu’s biggest value to the White Sox, however, might come off the field, where he serves as a mentor to young players like Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez. Luis Robert, the organization’s top-ranked prospect and another fellow Cuban, is expected to join that group when he arrives in the major leagues next season.

Earlier this season, Jimenez said Abreu has been "like a father" to him. Moncada has been by Abreu's side since reaching the major leagues in 2017.

“He has taught me a lot, on and off the field,” Moncada said Tuesday through team translator Billy Russo. “That's something that I will be always thankful for him because he's been a mentor for me, and I appreciate that.”

Abreu, Moncada, Jimenez and Tim Anderson have been an incredibly productive foursome during the final month of the season, giving credence to Abreu’s words back in August that the 2020 season, one in which the White Sox could shift into contention mode, starts now.

Anderson added his voice to the group advocating for Abreu’s return Tuesday.

“He means a lot,” Anderson said. “He's leading the way. He was here when we were struggling, so I want him to be here when we're winning. I think it's only right.”

Abreu has certainly put in his time as the White Sox have sought to create a sustainable contender on the South Side. In his six years with the team, he’s never reached the postseason, never finished a season with a winning record.

But that hasn’t done one thing to sour his opinion of the organization he’s routinely thanked as he’s climbed the franchise leaderboards and joined elite South Side company throughout the 2019 season. Abreu is as aware as anyone of the team’s bright future, and he’s cited it as his reasoning for wanting to stick around. At the All-Star Game in Cleveland, he pledged that if the White Sox didn’t re-sign him, he’d sign himself and play for them anyway. More newsworthy, perhaps, was his revelation to the Sun-Times that chairman Jerry Reinsdorf promised Abreu he’d never play in another uniform.

And so as the White Sox head into the offseason, it all seems a matter of when, not if, the team will announce Abreu’s return on a new contract. Anderson’s advocacies are likely shared by the folks who are making the decisions in the front office. Fans taking to social media and begging the White Sox to bring Abreu back are likely preaching to the choir.

Renteria and Anderson can’t picture the White Sox making their long-awaited transition without Abreu. If all goes according to expectation, they won’t have to.

“When you see him going out there and doing everything he does, he's been a big part of who we are continuing to move forward,” Renteria said. “He's one of those guys that I cannot see not being a part of us as we move forward.

“Obviously, I don't control that, but I think the organization in general feels very confident about him and what he brings to the table. So I'm optimistic he's going to continue to be a part of us as we move forward.”

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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


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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