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Hip Hip José! White Sox, Abreu ink 3-year deal

Three-time All-Star: 'There was never any doubt'
@scottmerkin
November 22, 2019

CHICAGO -- The Friday conference call question for José Abreu centered upon his thoughts regarding the White Sox adding Yasmani Grandal via a four-year, $73 million free-agent deal on Thursday. But Abreu’s downright jubilant response perfectly fit with his own piece of news, on a day when the face of

CHICAGO -- The Friday conference call question for José Abreu centered upon his thoughts regarding the White Sox adding Yasmani Grandal via a four-year, $73 million free-agent deal on Thursday.

But Abreu’s downright jubilant response perfectly fit with his own piece of news, on a day when the face of the White Sox agreed upon a three-year, $50 million contract. Under terms of the agreement, Abreu will receive a $5 million signing bonus, $11 million in 2020, $16 million in '21 and $18 million in '22, with $4 million deferred.

“I’m very happy, my friend,” Abreu said on the call, sounding giddy during the entire 18-minute interview.

Abreu expertly works with interpreter Billy Russo, conveying his feelings and demeanor along with his answers from Spanish to English to the media. In this particular instance, Abreu put forth the excited reply in English.

There’s every reason for both the White Sox and Abreu to feel good in regard to this new deal, which supersedes the one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer that the first baseman originally had accepted last Thursday.

Abreu has been a solid middle-of-the-order presence since joining the White Sox prior to the 2014 season on a six-year, $68 million contract, which was the largest in franchise history prior to Grandal. He ranks third in franchise history in slugging percentage (.513), sixth in homers (179), ninth in extra-base hits (411), 13th in RBIs (611) and 15th in total bases (1,821).

In 2019, Abreu slashed .284/.330/.503 with 33 homers and a career-high and American League-leading 123 RBIs. He saw the promise of this young team starting to develop over the past couple of seasons, serving as a mentor to players such as Yoán Moncada, Eloy Jiménez, Luis Robert and Tim Anderson, and went as far as stating he would sign himself back if the White Sox wouldn’t.

Winning with the only team Abreu has ever known in the Majors, and probably the only one he will ever know, was important to the veteran, who has endured six years of losing. He will now have that extended chance.

“That's why during the past season I was telling you guys that I would be part of this organization for the rest of my career,” Abreu said through Russo. “There was never any doubt that I wouldn't be part of this organization for years to come.

“It's just very special for me to continue to be part of this organization. There is no one happier in this moment than my mom for this deal to get done. When we heard the news this morning, we were all very happy in the house. Good things happen to good people.”

Some will argue the White Sox had the right scenario in place in going year-to-year with Abreu, who would have entered next offseason as a free agent without a qualifying offer attached. He turns 33 on Jan. 29, and while his offensive numbers were good overall, his ’19 splits were elite against left-handed pitchers (.360/.418/.591 over 182 plate appearances) and average against righties (.257/.299/.472 in 511 plate appearances).

Those numbers go with a minus-4 Defensive Runs Saved at first base, but Abreu’s defensive numbers haven’t grown worse with age -- he posted minus-10 DRS in ’14. He also had a 48.2% hard-hit rate last year, his highest tracked by Statcast (since 2015), to go with a 92.1 average exit velocity and 63 barrels (batted balls with the optimal combination of launch angle and exit velocity) marking his most in any year since Statcast came online.

A strong bond exists between Abreu and White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, but that bond runs between Abreu and the entire organization from players on up. It’s a respect held by opposing players, who could be potential free agent targets joining Abreu on this road to contention.

“It was a poorly kept secret that both sides were very motivated to work something out,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. “Certainly, envision José as an important part, again, not just offensively, but in terms of what he brings to the table in the clubhouse and what it means to your organization and how he represents us.”

“Everybody realizes we are going to be a very good team because we have talent and we have very, very good young guys,” Abreu said. “There’s not any doubt that we are going to be really good because I know these guys. I’ve been working with them, and I know their desire to get better, their desire to compete and their desire to be champions. I know we are going to be good and it’s going to be noticed around the league.”

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.