By Bruce Levine–
GLENDALE, Ariz. (CBS) — The fact that the White Sox are in the beginning of an organizational rebuild means 2017 is somewhat in limbo for first baseman Jose Abreu and many of the team’s veterans.
This past offseason, the 30-year-old Abreu opted out of the guaranteed money on the final three seasons of his six-year, $68-million contract so he could go through the arbitration process three times in hopes of making more money. The sides settled at $10.825 million for the 2017 season.
If Abreu plays at a high level in 2017, he figures to earn $16 million-$20 million annually in the final two contract years.
The question is, for whom will those final seasons be played? The smart money is on a team other than the White Sox as they continue their rebuild.
For now, the classy, respected Abreu is an important conduit for the team’s transition from being veteran-laden to a youth movement. His relationship with rookie second baseman Yoan Moncada, a fellow Cuban, is important.
“I feel very good about being called a veteran on this team,” Abreu joked. “This is a role I embrace to take. I have talked about it with (manager Rick Renteria), and I am very motivated to take the role.”
Moncada, 21, and Abreu played in Cuba together years ago.
“Everyone knows how good he is,” Abreu said of Moncada. “They all know how much talent he has. I have talked to Moncada, about how we can make things easier for him here. We try to give him some good advice. He is a really good kid. He wants to do well, and my relationship is very good with him.”
Abreu is on a mission to improve off of a 2016 season that was marked by a really slow start and a hot finish. 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.
“I had a lot of support from the coaches last year when I struggled,” Abreu said. “I rely on them a lot. I also incorporate video into my preparation. The coaches are always trying to give me good advice to improve my game.”
Abreu isn’t a fan of the designated hitter role, though he will be used in that spot sometimes for rest reasons, Renteria said, as the team rotates several players there.
Abreu likes the tone Renteria has set in the latter’s first season as White Sox manager after serving as bench coach last season.
“I don’t like to DH,” Abreu said. “(But) the season is a long one. There are days you need to be a DH. There are days when you need to take a rest. I am good with that. Rick is the boss. We must follow his lead.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.