White Sox

There'd be no better White Sox representative at All-Star Game than Jose Abreu, who 'would like to stay here forever'

There'd be no better White Sox representative at All-Star Game than Jose Abreu, who 'would like to stay here forever'

The White Sox are all about the future, all about youth, at this point in their rebuilding effort.

But there’s no better template for what the organization is trying to build than the 31-year-old who could be the team’s lone representative at the All-Star Game next month.

Jose Abreu was revealed as the leading vote-getter among American League first basemen Tuesday, a surprising feat considering his place on a team 20 games under .500 and on a team that doesn’t play in New York or Boston.

Abreu’s statistics certainly make him deserving, as he’s once again been the model of consistency with a .290/.350/.512 slash line that stands high above his competition at the position. But to understand how shocking it is that he’s leading the vote, know this: He’s the first White Sox player to lead his position at any point during balloting since 1996.

“It will be excellent because we play this game for the fans,” Abreu said through a translator Tuesday when asked what it would mean to be voted an American League starter. “To have the honor to represent them and they know what I’m doing, that is really big. If that happens, I would be really happy.”

“We’re pretty excited about that,” manager Rick Renteria said. “All of us, the coaching staff, are very excited. I’m sure the players are, as well. He’s worked really hard and has had some very good seasons. He’ll continue to have another nice season this year. It would be nice to see him there, get the chance to for the whole world to see who Jose Abreu is.”

Abreu has been extremely consistent ever since arriving from Cuba before the 2014 season, last year becoming the third player ever to hit at least 25 homers and drive in at least 100 runs in each of his first four major league seasons. But he’s been to just one All-Star Game, during his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2014.

“Those are the experiences you never forget,” he said about his All-Star trip in 2014. “You work for it, and at that time it was recognition for all my work, and for the journey to come to the U.S. and the majors.

“One of the best moments was when I met Derek Jeter, he was in his retirement year and it was a very special moment for me. Just being there, being around great players and having the opportunity to share the field and locker room with them was very special.”

The production speaks for itself, and it’s been enough to make Abreu worthy of an All-Star appearance at pretty much any point throughout his career. But to the White Sox, he’s so much more than a slash line and a collection of home runs and RBIs. He’s a model for what they want all their young players to be, an example of work ethic and how to go about one’s business. He earns rave reviews from every corner of the White Sox clubhouse, and it’s not difficult to see why the team would be especially excited to see Abreu earn this All-Star nod.

It’s also not at all surprising to see why they would want Abreu to stick around throughout this rebuilding process and be a key contributor on the next contending team. Of course, that would necessitate the White Sox inking Abreu to a contract extension, as he’s only under team control through the 2019 season. But that decision doesn’t seem like a difficult one.

“We’ve made no secret about our affection for Jose, and it’s not just based upon the contribution between the white lines, it’s based on what he does in that clubhouse,” general manager Rick Hahn said Monday. “I don’t think there’s a finer representative for what it means to be a White Sock or what we hope for our players to be on and off the field and what Jose Abreu provides us.

“Again, we don’t have to make any decisions on how he fits for the long term for a little while now. He’s under control through the end of next season. If at that point, before that point, if we haven’t come to terms on an extension we certainly will have time then to revisit that.”

For any other team in any other rebuild with any other veteran player, a season like Abreu’s and a potential trip to the All-Star Game might make him an obvious midseason trade candidate. But read Hahn’s words again. Does it sound like Abreu is a guy the White Sox want to deal away? No, it doesn’t. And it sounds like Abreu doesn’t want that, either.

“Right now I am with this organization. I am glad and really grateful for everything this organization has done for me. I would like to stay here forever,” Abreu said, “but right now I am just taking advantage of every moment, every game that I spend with this team. Hopefully I can stay here my whole career.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: White Sox call up Michael Kopech

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: White Sox call up Michael Kopech

With the big news that Michael Kopech is coming to the majors, Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber talk about the decision by the Sox to bring up their top pitching prospect and the excitement that Kopech will bring to the team and the 2018 season.

Kevan Smith discusses what kind of stuff Kopech has and what it was like catching him in the minor leagues. Plus, they talk about Paul Konerko’s unforgettable day in the booth with Hawk Harrelson.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Talk service time all you want, White Sox have decided Michael Kopech is ready for the big leagues now

Talk service time all you want, White Sox have decided Michael Kopech is ready for the big leagues now

There were plenty of people who thought Michael Kopech was the White Sox best pitcher when the team left Glendale, Arizona, to start the 2018 season.

Whether or not the team shared that opinion, Kopech spent the next four and a half months as a minor leaguer.

The prevailing preseason thought was that it wouldn’t take the flame-throwing Kopech, who struck out 172 minor league hitters in 2017, long to breeze through Triple-A and arrive on the South Side. But it did.

A dominant beginning to the season was followed by a bumpy stretch in which his ERA and walk total consistently grew. But the last seven starts were terrific, and so Kopech’s call to the majors has finally come. He’ll make his big league debut Tuesday night against the Minnesota Twins.

It’s news that will please many White Sox fans because it’s something they’ve been waiting all season to see happen. Ever since Sox Fest back in the winter, the No. 1 question has been: When will Kopech and Eloy Jimenez reach the bigs? Jimenez, the team’s top-ranked prospect, is still a minor leaguer for now, but Kopech is about to hit the South Side with a heck of a lot of fanfare. It’s a pretty tangible example of this rebuilding effort moving in the right direction.

The recent conversation among fans and media members, though, has centered around service time and whether the White Sox handling of Kopech and Jimenez would mirror how the Cubs handled Kris Bryant back in 2015, keeping a star prospect from the majors until a couple weeks into the following season to start the clock a year later and essentially add a year of team control to the end of his contract. A lot of Twitter-using White Sox fans have whole-heartedly bought in to such a strategy.

But general manager Rick Hahn has insisted all along that the only determination of when these guys would come up was that they hit all the developmental milestones the team wanted them to hit in the minor leagues. For what it’s worth, Hahn answered a question about service time earlier this summer, saying that it had nothing to do with keeping Kopech at Triple-A. That question was specifically in reference to when Kopech could become arbitration eligible, not a free agent even further down the road. But the response is an interesting one as a similar conversation keeps happening surrounding this team and these specific decisions.

“It was all baseball. It’s never been the arbitration three years from now. It’s been about baseball,” he said back in mid June. “Again, not getting too far down into Michael’s checklist of what we want to see him accomplish, but he hasn’t checked them all off yet. He’s had some real good starts. He’s getting closer, and it’s not going to surprise me seeing him here at some point in the not too distant future, but he’s not there yet.”

Several tremendous outings later, and Kopech is there now. The numbers have been unreal in his last seven starts: a 1.84 ERA, 59 strikeouts and only four walks in 44 innings.

Hahn also talked about how the team’s handling of pitching prospects Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito a season ago could be a kind of template for how it would handle Kopech this season. Both those guys were called up in August, just like Kopech will be in a couple days.

Just like Hahn’s season-long declaration that the fortunes of the major league team and of the players on the major league team had no bearing on when top prospects would be promoted, at the very least in Kopech’s case, the same seems to have been true about the issue of service time. Some might lament the fact that the White Sox didn’t wait on Kopech, and it’s not a point without merit, as a large number of injuries to top prospects this season robbed them of developmental time and perhaps shifted the timeline of the entire rebuild. Maybe. In the event that is a concern shared by the White Sox, the extra year might have made a difference down the road.

But as White Sox fans have seen first hand this season, there is development that needs to happen at the major league level, too. Giolito and Lopez gained valuable experience pitching at the end of last season. Those two, plus Yoan Moncada and other young players, have gone through growing pains throughout this year’s campaign. Kopech will face the challenges of the big leagues, as well, and the sooner he does, the sooner he can learn how to overcome them.

Hahn has said all along that the organization’s focus remains on the long term, and though there might be arguments out there that not waiting could potentially shorten the team’s window of contention many years down the line, Kopech’s promotion does an awful lot to open it in the first place.