By Bruce Levine–
(CBS) White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu has been a consistent performer in his first three big league seasons, hitting .299 while averaging just more than 30 homers and 102 RBIs per season. Already, the six-year, $68-million deal that Abreu signed in the fall of 2013 — the largest in franchise history — is paying off well for both sides.
With the White Sox now in full rebuild mode and the playoffs likely three to four years away, does it make sense for them to keep Abreu? In the short term, the answer would seem to be yes.
In addition to his quality production, Abreu could soon have a role in mentoring fellow Cuba native Yoan Moncada, the highly touted 21-year-old second baseman who was acquired from the Red Sox in the Chris Sale trade. Moncada is projected for a mid-May call-up or soon thereafter, and Abreu can be a valuable resource for the White Sox in helping Moncada learn the ways of the big leagues and the big-city world of Chicago.
As for his part, Abreu is coping with the reality of the new-look White Sox, with Sale and outfielder Adam Eaton dealt in the offseason and the possibility of left-hander Jose Quintana and closer David Robertson being traded soon, Abreu is
“When they first were traded, I was sad,” Abreu said of Sale and Eaton. “They were both my teammates the last three years. They were very good teammates. I tried to relate to the way they must have felt when they first heard the news. I tried to think about how I would feel in that position. At that point, I realized that baseball is a business. What the team did was look to put us in the best position for the future. As a player, you learn these things you must accept.”
With Moncada now viewed as the face of the organization for the future, the 30-year-0ld Abreu is embracing the opportunity that should await to mentor Moncada and others.
“I feel blessed to have the opportunity to play with him,” Abreu said. “I think it’s an honor to be a mentor to him or any of our new young players. That is something I like. I am looking forward to helping them to learn and get better here. The goal is still to win a championship with this team.”
The trade winds have blown in the direction of all of the White Sox’s veteran players. Abreu knows he may have to face this reality himself as the trade deadline begins to move closer in late July.
“You have to take yourself out of the media and the news,” Abreu said. “As a professional player, we must concentrate on our work. You try not to pay attention to what the media is saying. If you start to let that sink in, it will distract you from your goals. I hope I can play here with my teammates for a long time. At the end of the day, you must understand the decision is not in our hands.”
Abreu opted out of the last three years of his long-term deal for the arbitration process this offseason. He will be paid $10.875 million in 2017.
A poor first half of 2016 for Abreu was made up for with a strong August and September. Abreu hit .319 in the second half, compared to.272 before the All-Star break. His OPS in April was .657, but that mark was .898 in the second half and finished at .821 for the season.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.