“I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family.”
Barney the Dinosaur probably never went to business school.
But his message is as fit a descriptor of the relationship between Jose Abreu and the White Sox as you’re likely to come up with.
The heavy-hitting first baseman is slated to hit free agency in a matter of weeks, but the chances he’s playing anywhere besides the South Side of Chicago next season seem to be zilch. He’s spent the entirety of the 2019 season professing how much he wants to remain with the White Sox, and the team has spent the better part of his six-season tenure here saying how much it loves him, too.
Abreu’s gone as far to vow that if the White Sox don’t re-sign him this winter, he’ll sign himself and play here anyway. He revealed to the Sun-Times that team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf promised him he’ll never play in another uniform.
General manager Rick Hahn addressed the situation during his end-of-season press conference Friday, pointing to the mounting evidence that Abreu’s return seems like a foregone conclusion.
“With Jose, we’ve heard his thoughts that even if we don’t re-sign him he’s going to re-sign himself. We’ve heard Jerry’s thoughts about he’s always going to wear a White Sox uniform. I don’t think they are going to be teaching this in negotiation classes in college any time soon how this one is unfolding,” Hahn said to laughs. “But my takeaway from all that is that there’s a strong desire on both sides to figure out a way to keep Jose in a White Sox uniform beyond this year.
“We’ve been in these situations before. It seems fairly similar to the Paul Konerko situation after ‘05 and again after ‘09, when we re-signed him again. Paulie went deep into free agency and talked to other clubs, and we still found a way to bring him back. I don’t know quite the path it’s going to follow with Jose just yet, but more often than not, when there’s that mutual desire to figure out a way to get something done, you wind up getting something done.”
Abreu would figure to have plenty of suitors around the game given his consistent production over his six years in the major leagues. And this has been one of his most productive seasons yet. He leads the American League with a career-best 123 RBIs, and his 33 home runs are second only to the 36 he hit in his rookie year in 2014.
But Abreu loves playing for the White Sox. He’s constantly thanked the organization and Reinsdorf, specifically, as he’s set career and franchise milestones during the 2019 season. The White Sox have simultaneously lauded him as a model player and a role model for their ever-growing number of youngsters. Eloy Jimenez went as far as saying that Abreu has been like a father to him during his rookie season.
All signs have pointed to the White Sox holding Abreu in the same esteem they held players who now have their numbers retired and statues standing at Guaranteed Rate Field. Reinsdorf presented Abreu with a commemorative ring when he hit for the cycle in 2017. Manager Rick Renteria said earlier this week he couldn’t envision the rebuilding White Sox transitioning into contention mode without Abreu.
And so perhaps Hahn’s comparison to Konerko is all too appropriate. Abreu certainly seems like he’s earned the title of “Mr. White Sox” for this generation. To see him playing elsewhere in 2020 just doesn’t make sense.