By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Like almost everyone other than Tim Anderson on the White Sox, first baseman Jose Abreu is unsure of what the future holds for him on the South Side. With a rebuild that promises a ton of change over the next five years, Abreu can only prepare for 2017, hold his head down and play ball.
In his first three years in the big leagues, the 30-year-old Abreu has reached statistical thresholds that only elite sluggers can match. He’s averaged a shade over 30 homers and 102 RBIs for his career with a .299 batting average and .875 OPS. Numbers aside, the value of Abreu could extend beyond the field as well. With the future promotion of 21-year-old infielder Yoan Moncada due sometime toward June, Abreu should have a strong influence on the fellow Cuban.
Abreu opted out of his six-year $68-million deal and for arbitration last fall. This means that he will be eligible for arbitration the next two seasons, then become a free agent before the 2020 season. Abreu understands that he may be a trade chip in the coming years as the White Sox undergo a rebuild.
“I hope to spend my whole career with the White Sox,” he said. “At the same time, you have to realize this is a business. There are too many others factors that you cannot control. I am just glad to be here today. I choose to enjoy every day with this team. This is a great organization. I would like to spend my whole career here.”
That scenario is possible but not likely. Abreu is an average defensive first baseman who could also serve as a top-tier designated hitter, be it for the White Sox or someone else. Abreu struggled in the early stages of the 2016 season before a hot finish, and he’s now eyeing a more consistent performance.
“I just asked him to be himself,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Everybody realizes he had part of the season that was down. He ended up turning it on at the end. He seems in a good place and relaxed. We expect him to have a good season.”
Abreu has only one goal that he will share with the general public — that’s to win. He disagrees with the premise that the White Sox will be bad this season.
“I respect other people’s opinions on our team,” Abreu said. “I do not agree with that. I know they say we are rebuilding, but I believe we have a lot of talent to compete. That is all you can ask. We have the talent to compete. If we put our best effort out there every day, that is all you can ask. We have a lot of talent here. We have a lot of talent in the minor leagues. Once all of that is in place, I think we are going to be good.”
The question is this: Will Abreu be with the White Sox when the pieces all fall into place?
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.