KANSAS CITY -- This year begins somewhat similarly to any of the other five José Abreu has had since he joined the White Sox.
The All-Star first baseman is excited to begin regular-season action in Kansas City on Thursday afternoon; he’s healthy and physically and mentally prepared. But in a couple of important ways, this season is also very different for Abreu.
Let’s begin with the personal reason, as the 32-year-old Abreu enters the season in his last year under White Sox contractual control. During a talk with MLB.com this week, Abreu strongly reiterated a desire to stay with the White Sox well beyond this October.
“I’ve been very clear about my intentions. I want to be here,” Abreu said through interpreter Billy Russo. “I want to play my whole career with this organization ... the one who gave me the opportunity to play in the Majors.
“Right now, at this point, I don’t have any control. I have one more year of my contract here. I hope to fulfill my goals and the team’s goals from this year too. And whatever happens is going to happen. But I definitely want to be a White Sox for the rest of my career.”
Abreu is an elite middle-of-the-order hitter with four seasons of at least 25 home runs, 32 doubles, 100 RBIs, a .290 average and an .820 OPS. His 2018 season was cut short by an abdominal injury, but he still hit .265/.325/.473 with a .797 OPS in 128 games, notching 78 RBIs and 22 home runs in the limited campaign. His clear value on the field is surpassed by an even greater value in the clubhouse.
The strong feeling toward the White Sox on Abreu’s part is reciprocated by the organization, which holds him in such high esteem that other teams’ potential trade offers as the season progresses might not match Chicago’s lofty demands. That behind-the-scenes reputation doesn’t necessarily guarantee the White Sox and Abreu will reach an extension agreement, but it helps.
Abreu has not laid out any specific plans concerning in-season contract discussions, aside from always maintaining a laser focus on his day-to-day preparation and on-field performance. He also didn’t specify how much longer he wanted to play in the Major Leagues, viewing himself as someone who thanks God every day for the opportunity.
“I’m going to be here as long as [God] wants, as long as this ride lasts,” said Abreu, who excelled for a decade with Cienfuegos in Cuba before coming to the White Sox. “Hopefully, with all the experience and years I have been playing, I know how to take care of my body. I know how to take care of my whole preparation and my routine.”
Another team-wide difference exists for Abreu in 2019. After enduring five years of losing and a 100-loss year in ’18, Abreu sees light at the end of the rebuild tunnel. He’s excited to watch Eloy Jiménez play in his first big league season. He’s excited to see an even hungrier Yoán Moncada applying lessons from his first full big league campaign in ’18.
It’s that sort of burgeoning talent that Abreu wants to be a part of for years to come. Ultimately, he wants to fulfill the dream of winning a World Series with the White Sox.
“To win a World Series is special. It doesn’t matter what team you are playing,” Abreu said. “But it’s even more special when you can win a World Series with a team that gives you the opportunity to play in the Majors. That’s what I want to do. That’s really what I’m committed, and I think we are doing.
“We are heading in the right direction and hopefully we are going to be able to be here and to play here with this organization, representing this team, for when we win a World Series. We are building something special.”