The White Sox are heading into their first spring training in nine seasons with Jose Abreu.
It's a different feel in the clubhouse without one of the team's main voices; but, they plan to push forward without his presence.
"Jose, for nine years, he was exemplary in terms of what we'd want in a White Sox player," Rick Hahn told the media on Thursday. "In terms of his performance, his commitment, his work. With his teammates and in the White Sox community at large. And he'll be missed. It's weird looking in the clubhouse and not seeing him."
Abreu donned a White Sox jersey for nine years, playing his rookie year in 2014 and winning AL Rookie of the Year that season. He garnered three Silver Sluggers, three All-Star nods and the 2020 AL MVP award during his time on the South Side.
But, this offseason, Abreu opted to sign with the reigning World Series champion Houston Astros on a three-year, $50 million deal to help replace the likes of Yuli Gurriel.
Back in November, Hahn mentioned he only discusses "deals that happened" and wouldn't speak on the happenings around the organization's discussions with Abreu. Nevertheless, Hahn mentioned in November the team is "bullish" on Andrew Vaughn, who is set to replace Abreu at first base this season.
MORE: Rick Hahn discusses Jose Abreu's departure to Astros
"I feel like this team heading into this year, we're going to be a little stronger defensively based on how guys are going to line up," Hahn said. "I think that we have a balanced lineup that Andrew [Vaughn] helps bring and, if [Oscar] Colas ends up in right field as well, I think we're going to be a little different from what you saw last season in terms of energy level and preparation and focus.
"And the talent still remains in that room that, again, a year ago had everyone extremely optimistic about this group."
Indeed, the White Sox are heading into a season optimistic about the expectations they have for themselves and the individuals who struggled to take the field last season due to injury, i.e. Yasmani Grandal, Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, etc.
Still, they have question marks surrounding the roster, including their reliability on Romy Gonzalez at second base and how Colas will fair in his debut MLB season.
But, despite the loss of Abreu piling onto those questions, Hahn isn't worried about the talent in the clubhouse.
"You're never gonna hear from anyone with the White Sox anything other than Jose is missed. But that doesn't mean it was that can't still have a damn good team, even if he isn't here," Hahn said.