José Abreu has been a fixture in the Chicago White Sox lineup for nine seasons.
He was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2014 and the AL Most Valuable Player in 2020. He led the league in RBIs in 2019 and 2020.
And he almost never misses a game.
Abreu’s time with the organization might be winding down. The first baseman will be a free agent after this season.
“As I said before, I’m just thankful and loyal to (Sox Chairman) Jerry (Reinsdorf),” Abreu said through an interpreter when asked Tuesday about the uncertainty of finishing his career with the Sox. “He gave me the opportunity to play here and I appreciate that. I always will be grateful for that opportunity.
“Like I said, I am a White Sox. I’ll be a White Sox (on Wednesday). We’ll see.”
Could he imagine himself in a different uniform?
“I said before, I’ll be a White Sox until tomorrow,” Abreu said.
Abreu, 35, leads the Sox in several offensive categories this season, including batting average (.304), hits (183) and doubles (40). He’s second in RBIs (75) and tied for third in homers (15). He went 1-for-3 with a run Tuesday in an 8-3 victory against the Minnesota Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field.
The Sox have other possible fits at first base, including Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets. Both players spent most of their first two big-league seasons in the outfield.
“He’s been exemplary in terms of what you want a White Sox player to be for nine years now,” general manager Rick Hahn said of Abreu on Monday. “No matter what the future holds for him here or elsewhere, I don’t think you are ever going to hear anyone with this organization say a bad word about José. Nothing but admiration and respect for the professionalism and the way he’s carried himself on the field and off the field.
“How it fits going forward, that remains to be seen come this offseason. Obviously there’s only so many different ways that you can fit various players on the roster and José returning would have a ripple effect on others, but we’ll have to wait to see how things unfold and make those decisions accordingly.”
Abreu said he has not talked with the Sox about a new deal.
“The goal right now is just to finish the season strong and healthy,” he said. “Once the season is over, take some time to think, rest and we’ll go from there.”
Abreu made clear he will keep playing somewhere.
“Of course,” he said. “I love baseball. I love the game even more now than when I started.
“I’m still hungry about the game. Once I lose that, then I know that it’s time.”
His teammates and coaches want Abreu back.
“One hundred percent,” center fielder Luis Robert said last week in Minneapolis.
Shortstop Tim Anderson said Tuesday: “You’ve seen what he’s been doing since he got here. He’s been consistent on both sides (offense and defense).”
Abreu returned the praise.
“I have all the respect for all of them, all my teammates, the first ones that were here when I first started to this group,” he said. “This is a very special group. I respect all of them, love them.”
Acting manager Miguel Cairo pointed to Abreu’s leadership.
“That’s the perfect example to follow right there,” Cairo said Tuesday. “If I’m a young kid, I want to see how he goes about his business. Preparation. Discipline. You want to have 26 players like that.”
Speaking of preparation, Abreu acknowledged this season’s power numbers aren’t where he’s accustomed to and that will be a focus this winter.
“That’s one of my goals to work on during the offseason, trying to increase power to hit homers,” he said.
Which home park he homers in during the 2023 season remains to be seen.
“I don’t like goodbyes,” Abreu said when asked about the emotions surrounding the last couple of games of 2022. “Again, I’m going to enjoy this, I’m going to be a White Sox (on Wednesday) too, and then we’ll go from there.”
He closed Tuesday’s interview session with a message to Sox fans.
“I want to thank them for all the support, for always having my back,” he said. “These were a special nine years and I hope that there can be more. But up to now it’s been very special and I’m going to be forever grateful for them.”