There is no question that Jose Abreu has been an RBI machine for the Chicago White Sox since signing a six-year deal prior to the 2014 season. Then, he signed a three-year extension after the 2019 season. Over the past eight seasons, he has easily been the team’s most productive hitter and has also become a team leader. He has also worked diligently at becoming a better first baseman.
While he will never win a Gold Glove, he has turned himself into a decent defensive player. Oh, and he doesn’t’ miss games. In seven full seasons (excluding 2020), he played at least 150 games six times. In 2020, he played all 60 games. True, first base is not overly demanding, but his determination to be on the field is inspiring.
In addition, Abreu has become a fan favorite on the South Side, and with good reason. He has an incredible work ethic, always seems to be smiling, and has become a solid role model to the younger players on the team. There also can be no doubt that he has played at least a small role in attracting young Cuban players to the South Side. There is very little, if anything, not to like about Abreu. Yet, with all that said, there is a question that must be raised when it comes to Abreu. While Jose Abreu has been very productive for the White Sox, he will turn 35 in 2022. So, what is his future in Chicago when his contract ends after 2022?
Why Jose Abreu Should Stay in Chicago
It is likely that many White Sox fans have not contemplated the idea of Jose Abreu in another team’s uniform. He is a fixture on the South Side, and could well be considered the face of the franchise. He is one of the most prolific run producers in all of Major League baseball over the last eight years. There is also nobody on the current White Sox roster who is even close to Abreu in terms of driving in runs. His durability speaks for itself: if there is a game, the odds are that Jose Abreu will be in the lineup.
As mentioned, Abreu is a legend of sorts back home in Cuba and has helped the Sox land some top Cuban prospects. That, in and of itself, may not be enough reason to re-sign him, but it is surely a point in his favor. Additionally, Abreu’s presence in the lineup has a ripple effect on the rest of the lineup. This is especially true for the first two hitters, as Abreu has hit third for the vast majority of his career. So, it goes without saying that the first two hitters are more likely to get some good pitches to hit. This makes the whole top of the lineup even more lethal.
Finally, yes, he will turn 35 years old before the season begins. So, he is not a young kid anymore. On the other hand, the designated hitter spot is available to manager Tony La Russa, should he choose to employ Abreu in that role. So far, Abreu has been reluctant to give up his post at first base. However, if it were a chance to extend his career and stay with his beloved White Sox, he may have a change of heart. Along with that, if Abreu were not offered a contract, and signed somewhere else, the Sox may have a public relations issue. These are all things to consider.
Why it Makes Sense to Let Jose Abreu Leave
On the other hand, there are compelling reasons to allow Abreu to walk after the 2022 season. There is a qualifier here, though, a rather big one. The White Sox may wait to see how Abreu does in his age 35 season before deciding how to approach his future. Some have suggested that he had begun to show signs of slowing down in 2021, numbers aside. That may or may not be the case, and remains to be seen. If he posts numbers similar to his MVP season of 2020, that would clearly change the dynamic. Then again, if he struggles through a season that is below average for him, alarm bells may go off in the front office. In any event, that determination will be made by Hahn and company at some point during or after the 2022 season. In the meantime, here are two reasons that Abreu could be allowed to walk.
The first reason is simply financial for both the White Sox and Abreu. After the 2019 season, Abreu signed a 3 year extension worth $50 million, which will earn him a cool $18 million in 2022. He has certainly earned every penny of that contract. However, if $18 million is the starting point for negotiations, that may be a hard pill for the Sox to swallow. In addition, would he be looking for multiple years, or would he settle for a one-year deal with a hometown discount? These are all questions that both Hahn and Abreu will be asking themselves, and perhaps each other, as the 2022 season goes forward.
The second reason is the fact that the White Sox have a bit of a logjam at left field/right field/first base/DH both now and in the future. One projected 2022 lineup has Andrew Vaughn in right field and Gavin Sheets at DH. Both were rookies in 2021 and showed promise for the future. They are also both natural first basemen. Eloy Jimenez also figures to get some time as DH. In addition, the Sox have Yoelqui Cespedes and likely Oscar Colas in the pipeline. Both are corner outfielders who would allow Vaughn and Sheets to move back to their natural position. So, the question for the future becomes: Do the White Sox really need an aging first baseman with a big price tag when they have younger players who are capable of filling the first base slot?
Yes, any decision on the future of Jose Abreu in Chicago is a year away. After all, the White Sox look to be solid contenders in 2022, and Abreu is a big part of their lineup. So,, it is only natural that White Sox fans focus their energy on the here and the now. Hopefully, Abreu has another MVP season, and helps carry the Sox into the postseason for a third straight season.
However, at some point, Rick Hahn and the Sox front office will have to make a decision on the future of Jose Abreu. No matter how it goes down, there will be disappointed fans on the South Side. So, maybe the best way to look at things is to enjoy the 2022 season, and let the future take care of itself.
Main image credit Embed from Getty Images