After the final pitch was thrown in the 2022 season, all White Sox fans sat in limbo with the state of the team in a bit of an awkward place. Right in the middle of all that was veteran Cuban slugger Jose Abreu. His return to the South Side is still in question in late November, with free agency in full swing. Most fans have come to accept that Abreu will not be back on the South Side in 2023, especially as reports have surfaced that both the Cubs and Padres have made Abreu a priority for their offseason.
However, it shouldn’t be time for us to say goodbye to Pito just yet – and here’s why.
Abreu, who will be entering his 10th MLB season in 2023, is still looking to play as he made it clear at the end of the year through translator Billy Russo. When asked if he would even play again in 2023 Abreu said, “¡Claro, yo amo béisbol!” This, unsurprisingly, translates to, “Of course, I love baseball!” Abreu also added, “I love baseball. I love the game even more now than when I started.”
Abreu has been with the White Sox since 2014 when he was signed from Cuba. He won AL Rookie of the Year in 2014 and is a career .292 hitter with 243 HR. Looking at his 2022 numbers – aside from Andrew Vaughn, he was the most productive White Sox player on a team that is lacking offensive production. In 2022, he hit .304/.378/.446 with 15 HR, 75 RBIs, and 4.2 wins above replacement (WAR). Andrew Vaughn, who is set to be Abreu’s replacement if he does not return, hit .271/.321/.429, with 17 HR, 76 RBIs, and -0.2 WAR. The number 3 overall pick in 2019 made his debut in the 2021 season. He put together a stellar freshman year and a promising sophomore one. Vaughn has never really played a consistent first base, despite being drafted as a first baseman. Pito will test the open market for the first time, and he might be looking for a hefty price given that the Yankees just re-signed Anthony Rizzo on a two-year, $40M deal with a third-year option. This will likely be the foundation on which Abreu looks for his next deal.
Rick Hahn at the GM meetings in Vegas hinted that it was not in the plans to bring Abreu back. “Vaughn is a first baseman. That’s how he was drafted. Does it mean he’s going to be our first baseman next year? Not necessarily.” Hahn also mentioned last month that there will be a “ripple effect” on the rest of the team if Abreu does not return. Although the jury is still out on whether or not Abreu will return, I believe that he should return. If Abreu is set to not return, it will be a huge loss for the ball club. Who is going to be there to pick up the load in the absence of Abreu?
The White Sox are a team in a weird place. They were middle of the pack when it comes to offensive production in 2023, given some pretty below-average production from certain players. Someone the White Sox could rely on, however, when it came to production was Abreu – he was there every day, day in and day out. We all hope Andrew Vaughn is who they say he is. He will have to be in order to replace Abreu – but even then, will it be enough to fill the missing void?
According to Baseball Reference, here are Jose Abreu and Andrew Vaughn’s 2023 season projections:
- Abreu: .277/.350/.450, 31 2B, 20 HR, 84 RBI, .800 OPS
- Vaughn: .261/.322/.421, 26 2B, 16 HR, 64 RBI, .742 OPS
We sure hope Andrew Vaughn plays better than those projections, but if he does not, then there will be a problem on the South Side.
The White Sox need Abreu more than Abreu needs us. It’s a pill that Rick Hahn, the fans, and myself included do not want to swallow: that this team is a gamble. It’s a 50/50 chance that this team bounces back to their old ways – not saying that it’s impossible, but the Sox find themselves in a spot where by 2023, Abreu was not supposed to be the best player on this team. The reality is that while it was supposed to be Robert, Moncada, Vaughn, and Eloy at this point, we just have yet to see it. It can still very well happen, but going into 2023, nothing is for certain with the White Sox. The only thing that would be certain would be Abreu’s veteran presence and leadership; day in and day out, you know what you are going to get.
Regardless of everything, I do not believe that Abreu will be back. I sure hope he is, because as I mentioned, this team is a gamble in my eyes. I believe in them and the possibilities that can happen, but I just have yet to see that happen. Eloy Jimenez has yet to put a full season together, Michael Kopech is still growing, and Yoan Moncada, Yasmani Grandal, Andrew Vaughn, and Luis Robert all need to step up. We’ve all seen glimpses of what could be, but it just hasn’t been there.
Hopefully, Pedro Grifol can be the right man for the job. Only time will tell whether he – or moving on from Abreu – will be the right choice on the South Side.
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