The 2021 Chicago White Sox were unceremoniously defeated from championship contention in a quick three games to one American League Division Series against the Houston Astros. While it was the first time the South Siders have gone to the postseason in back-to-back seasons in team history, they came up well short of a legitimate shot at the World Series trophy.
Jose Abreu burst onto the scene in 2014 and won that season’s Rookie of the Year crown. He has been consistently great since, but Abreu will be 35 in February when the White Sox open camp. How long can he continue to produce at or above replacement level?
Father Time Is Undefeated
While many major league players have played well into their forties, most of them are pitchers, not everyday position players who tend to take far more wear and tear on their bodies. While Abreu does not seem to be declining at any type of alarming rate, at some point one would assume we will see a decline in production. Abreu drives in runs consistently and has driven in 100 plus in six of his eight big league seasons. Abreu made his Major League Baseball debut at 27 years old, and that leads to the question, how much time does he have left? Abreu got a late start to his career and will more than likely end it with fewer years of service time than those who eventually wind up in Cooperstown. That is a topic for a different time.
While Abreu is a mainstay at first base for the White Sox, the talent Chicago has drafted or acquired for the rebuild that started with the Chris Sale trade to Boston has mostly arrived at 35th and Shields. Andrew Vaughn seems to be waiting in the wings to be the first baseman of the future for the Sox. Manager Tony La Russa has done a nice job finding places for Vaughn to get some playing time and at bats while we watch Abreu produce at an all-star level. Others have given Abreu days off when needed including Yasmani Grandal and Gavin Sheets. While Abreu has earned every inning he gets at first, the question of when do the Sox get him off his legs more consistently grows more valid. Vaughn was great at times in 2021 but seemed to tire as the season wore on.
The Time Is Now
If Tony La Russa’s age is not enough to push his dear friend Jerry Reinsdorf to spend some extra money on trying to win a championship now, Abreu’s dedication and loyalty to the White Sox should be. Jose will likely produce at a high level for at least one or two more seasons, but the time for the Sox to pounce is now. The talent is here, and the pieces needed to be legit contenders will be available. If they squander the opportunity to surround Abreu with the few additions needed to contend, it should be and will be a very disappointing time for White Sox fans. They suffered through a rebuild crafted by Rick Hahn and Kenny Williams, and, as shown in game three of the ALDS, came back to the park to support the White Sox. Mistakes will be made but the worst decision, in my opinion, is the one they do not make. Make the trade, sign the free agent. Take the risk. Jose deserves it.
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