Abreu sticks around as White Sox rebuild

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

CHICAGO (AP) — The numbers are just part of the picture. Jose Abreu’s value to the Chicago White Sox extends far beyond the field.

So while the rebuilding project continues on the South Side, Abreu remains with the only major league team he has ever known. The slugging first baseman means so much to Chicago in so many ways that it’s tough to find a trade that is worth it for the White Sox.

“There was clearly speculation that he could conceivably have been moved this past offseason,” general manager Rick Hahn said Friday on the first day of the team’s annual fan convention. “Part of the reason that he wasn’t is that we do put a large value on what he does in the clubhouse, how he represents himself and the organization, what he does for our young players. The way he goes about his business is the epitome of what we expect from a White Sox player.

“That probably leads to us valuing him more highly than other organizations who haven’t had the pleasure of having him, which makes it that much more difficult to line up on finding value in a trade.”

That is more than fine for Abreu, who remains loyal to Chicago despite going through four straight losing seasons since he agreed to his first contract with the White Sox in October 2013. From Abreu’s perspective, White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and executives Kenny Williams and Hahn took a chance on him coming out of Cuba, and that means something to him.

“I love the city. I love the fans. I love the team,” Abreu said through a translator. “I love Jerry, Kenny, Rick, because they believed in me at a point where I didn’t know if people can believe in me because I was out of my comfort zone. The only thing I can say is I feel honored to be here and I feel honored to wear this jersey every day.”

Abreu has been remarkably consistent since joining the White Sox, hitting .290 or better with at least 25 homers and 100 RBIs every year. He was the unanimous choice for AL Rookie of the Year in 2014.

While he remains productive at the plate, it’s his connection to two of Chicago’s top prospects that might provide the most value to the team at this point. Abreu has served as a mentor to Yoan Moncada since the Cuban second baseman was acquired in the Chris Sale trade with Boston in December 2016, and he helped recruit countryman Luis Robert to the White Sox.

“He’s been awesome for me,” Moncada said through a translator. “As a player, as a human being, he’s an example for me and I’ve been trying always to follow him, to follow him as an example, as the guy that I want to be. Being able to stay with him here and play with him is a huge opportunity for me.”

Abreu, who turns 31 on Monday, picked Moncada up at the airport when he was promoted to Chicago in July. Now Moncada has taken an active role in helping Robert get used to professional baseball in the U.S.

“I passed through that process that Luis is passing right now,” Moncada said. “Abreu was a big help for me during the process and then I learned a few things that I want to teach them, thanks to Abreu.”

Abreu hit .304 with 33 homers and 102 RBIs last season, but Chicago finished fourth in the AL Central with a 67-95 record. He said he lost about 10 pounds over the winter by working hard and eating healthy.

As more of Chicago’s top prospects make it to the majors, he is hoping to be there for them as well.

“I know that my English is probably not so good right now, but I’m trying to get better in that aspect and I’m pretty sure I’m going to be better this year in how I can influence all of them in the clubhouse,” Abreu said. “That’s one of my goals. I started on it last year and I think that this year I’m going to be more able to do it with more confidence.”