PHOENIX – On the same dreary day the White Sox discovered free agent Manny Machado turned down their offer and signed with San Diego, general manager Rick Hahn was asked about Jose Abreu’s future.
“Never say never, but more often than not we handle our business in the offseason,” Hahn said.
The offseason is over, and Abreu’s contract was not extended.
This is the last year of his contract, and it’s looking as if the 32-year-old first baseman is heading to free agency at the end of the season, assuming he’s not traded first.
“There have been exceptions over the years,” Hahn said of extending players. “Back when we did [Mark] Buehrle midseason, Jermaine Dye midseason. I’m guessing in spring training we probably said something to the effect of, ‘We’ll revisit it at the end of the season.’ So there are exceptions, but generally we prefer to do business in the offseason.”
Since joining the Sox in 2014, Abreu never has played on a winning team. But instead of looking forward to a possible change of scenery, he wants to stay put.
“I’m excited because this year we’re in a good position to compete,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “We have a lot of talent. We’re getting ready for the point where we’re going to be a pretty good team. I think this can be that year where we start showing what we can do.”
Abreu primarily has been at first base in his first five seasons with the Sox, playing 629 games at the position. He’s played 112 games at designated hitter and strongly prefers being at first base.
“I don’t like DH,” Abreu said. “But if I’m playing first base or DH, or he’s playing first base or DH, it doesn’t matter. I think what matters is how we can make the team better.”
“‘He’ is newcomer Yonder Alonso, who was acquired in a Dec. 15 trade from the Indians for outfield prospect Alex Call.
Although many thought Alonso was brought in to help lure Machado – they are brothers-in-law – Hahn pointed to another reason.
“We were in pursuit of Yonder a year ago, when he signed with Cleveland, for the same reason: left-handed bat, he can balance us out, gives us a chance to take Abreu off his feet when needed and a nice veteran presence in the clubhouse,” Hahn said. “He’s very positive with the young players. There are a lot of leadership qualities there. As these young guys start matriculating to the big leagues and start maturing, they’re going to need to learn how to win. Having some veteran players around like Alonso or [Jon] Jay is going to serve them well over the course of their growth.”
Alonso has spent three of his nine major league seasons in the American League, and he’s spent the majority of that time playing first base.
Like Abreu, he’s more than willing to be the Sox’s designated hitter whenever the need arises.
“I think it’s going to be fine,” said Alonso, who batted .250/.317/.421 with 23 home runs and a career-high 83 RBIs with the Indians last season. “I think the ultimate goal here is to have 25 guys every single night and get a [win] whenever it comes. Get 27 outs, get a W and let’s go home and take care of the rest the next day.”