GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The word loyalty pretty much sums up José Abreu's connection to the White Sox.
Make that loyalty and family.
Abreu was coming off of a 2019 campaign where he topped the American League with 123 RBIs, while knocking out 33 home runs, 38 doubles and finishing with an OPS of .834 as he entered free agency. As a 33-year-old first baseman whose defense has improved over time but still wouldn’t be considered elite, it’s uncertain what the market would have been for Abreu.
That market really didn’t matter to a player who said he would sign himself back with the White Sox if they didn’t, working for an owner in Jerry Reinsdorf who told his family Abreu would never play for another team.
“My agent and I were focused on the White Sox,” said Abreu through interpreter Billy Russo during his first Spring Training media session on Friday at Camelback Ranch. “That was our focus through the whole process. My mom taught me to be thankful, and I'm really thankful to be with the White Sox.
“Yes, we had conversations with a team,” added Abreu of the free agent process. “With the White Sox.”
But isn’t the point of free agency to examine the open market, gauging your monetary worth, especially for a player such as Abreu who has endured six years of losing during his White Sox tenure? That’s not the case for Abreu, not where the White Sox are concerned.
They gave him the opportunity to play Major League Baseball. They gave his mother, Daysi, a chance to watch her son proudly wear the No. 79 and represent the White Sox with class and dignity. It was all about staying at a place Abreu considered home.
“I don't care about the money,” said a smiling Abreu, showing off his improving grasp of English.
“It's not all about the money. My family is good in Chicago. They love Chicago,” said Abreu with help from Russo. “They are really grateful and good with the White Sox organization; just the way that the organization has treated them, the fans, all the support. For us, it didn't make sense to look around for other places.”
Let’s be honest: Abreu certainly did well for himself and his family via the three year, $50 million contract agreed upon after he had accepted the $17.8 million qualifying offer by the White Sox. But the White Sox also did very well.
Some outside the organization might not understand, but Abreu means more to the White Sox than any other team could value him. The same holds true for Abreu’s strong feelings for the White Sox.
“Everybody knows the kind of person that he is. Everybody knows he’s our leader. He’s our mentor,” said White Sox third baseman Yoán Moncada of Abreu, through Russo. “He’s been on this team in the big leagues for a long time now and he’s always trying to lead by example.
“He’s always trying to take care of the young guys, but actually he’s always trying to take care of everybody around the team. That’s something that shows you the great person that he is. That’s something that shows you the kind of leader that he is. Everybody follows him. I follow him. The other guys follow him because he’s an example for all of us.”
Moncada’s locker sits two away from Abreu in the White Sox clubhouse at Camelback Ranch. Luis Robert, the No. 3 prospect in all of baseball, per MLB Pipeline, is stationed in-between the two. Moncada has already talked about mentoring Robert, much the way Abreu did for Moncada and Eloy Jiménez.
Of course, Abreu will be there as well to provide guidance. It’s an exciting time for the veteran, whose dedication to the organization has been rewarded with potential team success on the horizon.
“Even though the games haven't started yet and we are not playing in the regular season, I think we're going to be a very good team, a solid team, a solid group,” Abreu said. “I'm excited because the expectations are there.”