CHICAGO -- Rick Renteria was asked if he could imagine José Abreu not being back with the White Sox in 2020 and beyond prior to Tuesday’s contest with the Indians opening the final week of the 2019 season.
The White Sox manager’s answer was much shorter than the question.
“No,” said a smiling Renteria, who promptly looked around for the next question.
Abreu, who was signed to the largest free-agent deal in franchise history at $68 million prior to the 2014 season, is set to become a free agent after six stellar years with the White Sox. He earned $16 million this past season after exercising his right to opt into arbitration prior to the 2017 season.
Entering Tuesday's game with 33 home runs and an American League-leading 121 RBIs, Abreu once again has produced strong results. And it’s almost a foregone conclusion Abreu will return, primarily because his value goes well beyond what he does on the field. It’s something that White Sox players and coaches want to see as a reality.
“Obviously, I don't control that, but I think the organization in general feels very confident about him and what he brings to the table,” Renteria said. “So, I'm optimistic he's going to continue to be a part of us as we move forward.”
“He has taught me a lot, on and off the field,” White Sox third baseman Yoan Moncada said through interpreter Billy Russo. “That's something that I will be always thankful for him, because he's been a mentor for me, and I appreciate that.”
Shortstop Tim Anderson believes Abreu should be with the White Sox for the upcoming good times after enduring the leaner years.
“I want him to be here when we're winning. I think it's only right,” Anderson said. “He means a lot. He's leading the way. He was here when we were struggling.”
Moncada wants more after big 2019
For those rightfully impressed with Moncada’s 2019 breakout performance, the third baseman’s message on Tuesday was that he has only just begun.
“I feel very good, very satisfied with having the season I'm having, but at the same time, it's not a fluke,” Moncada said. “I'm having the season that I'm having because I worked hard, and I still know that I can do more. This season is just a big takeoff for me and a big motivation.”
Moncada has registered career highs in most major offensive categories this season. He entered Tuesday's game with 24 home runs and 77 RBIs while slashing .316/.369/.551.
Moncada believes all areas of his game have room for improvement, but he pointed to stealing more bases as one of his goals exiting 2019 and moving forward. He has stolen 10 bases this season after swiping 12 in '18.
“That was an aspect of my game that I couldn't totally explore this year,” Moncada said.
“You see his numbers. He improved a lot,” Anderson said. “He's a heck of a ballplayer. He's going to continue to get better.”
White Sox look to finish strong
Chicago's series against the Indians, which began on Tuesday, matters only for Cleveland in the context of the 2019 postseason picture. But the White Sox still want to finish strong, and they'll get a chance to do so against the Indians and then a four-game weekend home set with the Tigers to conclude the season.
“We're trying to win every game, and I'm not going to hold back on using our guys. We're going to try to win,” Renteria said. “We've been trying to do that all year long.”
Ultimately, the White Sox did not see the number of wins they wanted in 2019, but there is genuine optimism for '20.
“The development of chemistry within this locker room, the culture that was put in place last year and has continued to be developed this year from a team standpoint,” catcher James McCann said, "we're on the right track.”
“Everybody's going to try and do everything they can to put us in a better position next year,” Renteria said. “In specific, those guys that are in there and then whatever we're capable of doing throughout the winter. There's a genuine, palpable feel about how positive we intend to be going into the coming season.”
He said it
“I'm excited. I try not to think about it, but you guys keep talking about it. Why not try to go get it?” -- Anderson, on finishing off the American League batting title in these final seven games
“Don't jinx it. Don't jinx it. Let's stop talking about it. Let me show you. I'm going to try to go out and get it. I'm going to leave it at that.” -- Anderson, on whether he would sit the last few games if he had the batting title lead