The White Sox offense can’t find an heir to José Abreu

Despite facing Shohei Ohtani and the better part of an Angels bullpen that combined to strike out 15 White Sox, José Abreu managed to go 4-for-4 on Wednesday, capping off a June that resembled his August God Mode. He hit .356/.431/.533 even though considerable and readily apparent hip soreness, boosting his overall line to .284/.375/.451. After a dreadful start to his season, his OPS+ (136) is back to his lifetime average (135).

It’s taking a different shape. His 38 walks would be good enough for the fifth-highest total of his career, which doesn’t sound like much until you consider that he’s only played in 72 games. The categories that Steve Stone refers to as “the power numbers” are taking a hit. He’s barely on pace for 20 homers, and he’s not even on pace for 80 RBIs.

James Fegan wrote a great story about Abreu’s evolving approach, saying that Abreu’s drastically higher walk rate and drastically lower strikeout rate, combined with elite batted-ball statistics, would put him in any article about potential breakout candidates if he were 25 years old. Since he’s 35, we’re more inclined to poke at the missing power for how he’s aging.

This year is trending toward Abreu’s lightest for isolated power (ISO, or slugging percentage minus average), and he’s on pace for 20 home runs this season. His full-season low is 22, and even that was when injuries cut his season to 128 games in 2018. He hit 19 home runs in 60 games in 2020. And it’s a good thing his on-base ability has silenced questions about his power, because who knows what the possible answer is to that. His average exit velocity, hard-hit rate and frequency of balls hit over 95 mph are all frankly elite. His groundballs are slightly up from last season, but his flyball rate is also at a career-high with hardly any pop-ups. And as we spent some time establishing, Abreu is swinging at good pitches, maybe more so than he ever has.

If he weren’t at an age and point of his career where everyone monitors signs of decline, Abreu might be a lot more tempting as a potential breakout candidate — someone who is doing things that typically generate more power than he’s shown thus far. Because a normal Abreu, swinging this prudently, has been the stuff of dreams for a while now.

My guess is that the combination of miserable April weather and a corpse of a baseball cost Abreu some homers early, and his best contact as of late has gone to the hardest part of the park to leave — the opposite-field power alley. That could be a bat-speed thing. That could be the hip injury costing him some torque. That could be a concession to aging. Instead of selling out for power and opening himself to getting beat, he’s reining it in and concentrating on avoiding outs. Abreu is talented enough that the last option could very well be a choice.

What’s unfortunate is that Abreu’s current mode should be perfect for this offense. Thinking back to when Abreu signed his three-year deal after a productive-but-flawed 2019 season, if you told me that Abreu faced a fight to reach 20 homers in his final year of that contract, it would’ve merited a shrug.

However, if you told me that this age-35 version of Abreu was running a .375 OBP in place of a .500 slugging percentage even though the plunkings have ceased, it would’ve merited a hug.

Picture that .375 OBP behind Tim Anderson and Yoán Moncada! Picture that .375 OBP in front of the 30-homer power of Eloy Jiménez or Luis Robert! Abreu would be aging in the ideal fashion, transforming into a guy who keeps the line moving while handing the pine-tar-smeared baton to the next generation of White Sox run producers.

Alas, Abreu is trying delegation right when when everybody else faces relegation. That next generation of run producers is mired in arrested development, so when Abreu goes 4-for-4 against Shohei Ohtani, he doesn’t score once, because the rest of the lineup behind him goes 1-for-18 with eight strikeouts. With Andrew Vaughn still figuring out how to manage a six-month grind, the baton has nowhere to go, unless the White Sox ship it with Abreu to a real contender at the deadline.

With the calendar flipping to July, that discussion is no longer premature, although it can’t quite be called “pressing” either. The White Sox have a ton of games against the Twins and Guardians, so the Sox could very well drag the division leaders back into a rock fight. Even the Sox they stay flat, Abreu’s unconventional rapport with Jerry Reinsdorf puts too many possibilities in play to focus on one. Maybe he re-signs without incident. Maybe the White Sox cram a No. 79 retirement ceremony into the schedule while Abreu is playing for the other team.

Still, when every Rick Hahn media session sounds the same, when every series loss comes with a self-affirmation, when Tony La Russa says “I don’t look at results” regarding a never-good hitter who is now one of baseball’s worst, the Sox might benefit from any source of urgency, even if the ramifications from this one are the least fun for fans to consider.

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Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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chipporter

Jim, I love ya, but that’s freaking depressing. I’m not a shoot the messenger kind of guy, but could you bring some chemical therapeutics with you next time please.

PauliePaulie

Reminds me of ’12 Paulie.
Pache sent down. Leury takes over the cellar.

lifelongjd

I think the baton is ready to be passed to some degree to Vaughn. However TLR decided to rest him because he was “sore”. Let me say that again: he decided to rest our best hitter who is 24 years old because he was sore. With a scheduled day off the next day.
I’m not trying to make everything about the manager, but we are witnessing some awful decisions that are contributing to a once promising season getting flushed down the toilet.

metasox

Not uncommon to rest a guy next to an off day so he gets two days. Vaughn’s body is still getting accustomed to a pro schedule, and he broke down last season so am not surprised to see him rested. Bigger issue is that combined with everyone else broken. One thing that might help Vaughn physically is getting him out of the outfield permanently.

chipporter

AV’s has looked bad at the plate recently, not seeing outside sliders and swinging. He’s obviously not picking up the ball well currently. A couple of decompression days are worth a try.

670WMAQtheElder

7 games v Twins and 8 v Guardians before Aug. 1. Let’s see if results matter then.

Chris

If the Sox were not short on reliable OF’s to play… I’d say move Abreu to DH fulltime and put Vaughn at 1st base (where he probably belongs anyway). If the hip injury is costing him power.. It would be best to take him off the field. Less wear and tear on his body.

But, if the Sox do that.. who can take over for Vaughn in the outfield at present??? The pickings are slim.

Last edited 1 month ago by Chris
chipporter

Haseley

gibby32

The definition of slim pickings.

chipporter

I honestly don’t get what all the hypocrisy and double standards are about. The kid went down to AAA, got better than he’s ever been, over a sustained period of time, and deserved as much of a call up as anyone else.

I keep hearing unsubstantiated bullshit about how he can’t hit MLB pitching, is defensively worse than soandso…blah, blah, blah.

WTF is going on? He’s done everything that’s been asked of him, and were it most other players, folks would be clamoring to, “give him a chance”, yet not with Haseley?

FYI, I’m not interested in hearing “why” because the numbers don’t back up the weak arguments. Give the kid the same chance every other kid deserves, no more, no less.

In reality he deserves much more of a chance than he’s been given, because he fit several glaring needs, OF depth, LHB, offensive production (which he sustained in his last AAA deployment).

Last edited 1 month ago by chipporter
gibby32

Look, I generally appreciate your comments and, of course, it’s baseball and anything can happen. But save me the self-righteous pontificating about hypocrisy and double standards. All I said was that he is “slim pickings” and that comment is not even controversial. His record is mediocre and the eye test confirms that in spades. The “got better than he’s ever been” measure is scant and he looks scared when he’s at the plate (in the majors). And by not aggressively calling for a fly ball, he knocked Danny Mendick out for the year and maybe longer, and Danny Mendick was actually contributing. So spare me the bullshit; he’s slim pickings.

chipporter

First, I’m sorry I made you the directive of what I see as widespread double standards, after re-reading, that was unfair of me.

I do stand by what I said, and think he is being held to a different standard.

The ambiguousness of your responses is somewhat what I am talking about. “looks scared at the plate”? and surmising that he wasn’t “aggressively calling for a fly ball”? C’mon, that’s thin.

gibby32

The play between Mendick and Haseley is the outfielder’s to call and the reports were that no adequate call was made. As to “looks scared at he plate”, I admit that it’s a small sample size, but I believe his demeanor has been pretty damn striking. So I stand by what I said also, but I appreciate the clarification of your response.

soxygen

I don’t understand this obsession with Haseley, but whatever man.

Last edited 1 month ago by soxygen
chipporter

I know, I look like the lone voice in the wilderness, howling from the mountaintops. It feels awkward to me too, because I’m not a huge fan and when he was up at the beginning of the year, it pissed me off that we had another hot garbage OF’r in RF.

However, I do believe he’s shown enough at AAA to warrant a good look again, that’s all. Starting Leury in the OF ahead of him is just asinine. Bringing up a hot bat from AAA and sitting him so he can cool off and become a self fulfilling prophecy is even worse.

I’m sure my advocating is going to jump up and bite me in the ass somehow, it usually does.

Last edited 1 month ago by chipporter
soxygen

We’ve all got our kinks!

Seriously, last year I was the “Mercedes deserves more ABs” guy so who am I to judge.

upnorthsox

I think the big guerrilla in the room right now is wtf is going on with Haseley right now? If he’s hurt then he should be on the IL, if they wont play him then he shouldn’t be on the roster. Right now though, his (non)status is hurting the options available and the decisions being made.
My fear/feeling is that this is some kind of turf shit between Tony and Rick and I’m ready to say a pox on them both, let’s clear house.

HallofFrank

Yeah… if “Haseley and, I dunno, Tyler Neslony?” isn’t “slim pickings,” I don’t know what is.

Augusto Barojas

I don’t disagree that Haseley is slim pickings and highly unlikely to do anything. Collins and Mercedes had much better AAA numbers than Haseley over a longer timeframe, and are both nearly useless against MLB pitching.

However at this point, I’d rather see Haseley than Garcia or Harrison get starts in the outfield. That’s legitimate. He might suck and still be better than both of them. Instead we see Garcia every god damned game, he’s started in the OF 3 times in the past week and a half I think. No point in Haseley being on the roster if he isn’t considered a better OF option than Garcia. In the end though, it probably doesn’t matter all that much, slim pickings is what the Sox are left with after two completely desolate and wasted offseasons.

HallofFrank

Yeah, I’d rather see some Haseley than Garcia, too. But I’m not sure why Harrison got lumped in there. He’s both not an OF and he’s been quite good recently. I’d much rather see him in the lineup than Haseley, if it came down to it.

Alfornia Jones

They can’t spend 18 mil at 1B next year, not unless they can somehow trade Grandal. The only way to fix the log jam is to let Abreu walk.

The expiring contracts of Abreu and Pollach need to be spent on real RF/LF types. When Eloy and Grandal are healthy, I count 5 1B/DH types who shouldn’t be playing any other position, but they are forced in somewhere.

Abreu comes from a long line of Sox greats who wasted most of their careers on mediocre to bad teams. It’s a crappy ending, but very White Sox.

That said, I fully expect them to sign Abreu to a 1-2 yr $20 mil/ yr deal.

gibby32

Pollock (sp) is not on an expiring contract unless he wants to be. It is a 10M PLAYER OPTION. That is, if he plays well enough that we want him, we do not get him. If he plays like crap, we are stuck with him.

knoxfire30

Abreu will be back, by consequence of production and contract grandal will be back, so pollock is gone and the real test will be does Eloy come back and light it up 2nd half (seems doubtful), would the sox trade Vaughn for an up and coming star position player at a more valuable defensive position, do the sox parlay burger, sheets, types into a more useful upgrade at a corner OF or 2nd base spot.

If sosa rakes at AAA is he already gonna be counted on as the 2nd basemen in 2023?

Is Colas apart of the corner OF mix by mid to late 2023?

Lot of questions to be answered

gibby32

Pollock is not gone unless he wants to be.

soxfan

The question of what to do with Abreu depends on what the team wants to do in 2023. If they want to win, then it’s a no-brainer to bring him back at $18Mish a year for a year or two. If you’re trying to win in 2023, then none of the other 1B/DH types would bump Abreu from his spot in the lineup (we could quibble whether that’s 1B or DH).

But if you’re not going to try to win in 2023 and instead take a step back to reload in 2024, then Abreu is a much harder call. The Sox could trade Giolito, Hendriks, and maybe even Lynn for ready or near ready major leaguers while allowing the Abreu, Grandal, and Pollock obligations to expire.

Then – assuming everyone is healthy – you could still field a lineup of Anderson, Moncada, Robert, Vaughn, and Jimenez with 2 new faces in the outfield, a new 2B, and a new C, while we’d have to find three new starters to go with Cease and Kopech. Not exactly a rebuild but it would still require punting on 2023 because the assumption would be that Grandal isn’t going to play up to his contract and Giolito won’t sign an extension.

upnorthsox

No idea who the manager or GM will be (could KW be gone too? Seems a reach too far but then so was Pax and he was cleared out with the rest) but they will absolutely be trying to win in ’23.

I don’t think there’s any quibble at all, he would come back as a DH or not at all. As a younger DH he might get $18Mish but he’s not so you can look at what Cruz has been getting as top end reference. The org has other internal options for DH so when looking at position, age, and need, you’d be looking at $10M or less. Jose does bring other value to this org so I could see 2/$24M as a top end.

soxfan

The organization literally has zero other options for guys that can reliably throw up a 135 OPS+ at DH other than (arguably) Andrew Vaughn, and if you want to win you want them both in the lineup, not just one of them.

Even if Grandal is healthy enough to play 1B or DH but not catch, his career OPS+ is 116 and he only exceeded 135 twice (in 2012 and last year).

Jimenez had a 139 OPS+ in 2019 and is below 100 in 249 ABs since and that’s not accounting for whether or not he’ll actually come back healthy.

Burger is showing promise, but the league could still adjust to his adjustments and I wouldn’t bet on him outperforming Abreu in the next two years.

Sheets is about to be branded as a AAAA player; anything we get out of him at the ML level is a bonus at this point.

So of the five 1B/DH types, the only one that can be reasonably expected to perform at Abreu’s level can also fit into the same lineup with him. The other guys are either toast or have too much uncertainty to rely on them.

Cruz is getting $15M, so given that Abreu is younger and can play 1B (even if it’s part-time) while Cruz has exclusively played DH this year I don’t think $18M is an overpay.

Again…if the Sox are trying to win in 2023. At this point I wouldn’t necessarily assume they are.

upnorthsox

Vaughn, Grandal, Jimenez, Burger, Sheets you named them yourself so hardly zero literally or otherwise. You could add Pollock in there too. You are making a huge assumption that Abreu will be a 135+ ops player himself and whoever replaces him at 1B and/or DH doesn’t have to either.
The new GM will absolutely be going for it, if for no other reason than the size of his payroll demands it. I’ll assume if you are willing to give Jose $18M to DH that the new GM will not be you. 🙂
While we may not agree on how much, I do believe we agree that Jose is going to be of value to this team next yr.

soxfan

Being able to have DH next to your name on the lineup card is hardly “reliably throwing up a 135 OPS+”. Sure there are guys that can stand in the batters box, but there are zero guys *reliably* replacing Abreu’s production. It’s wishcasting to think anyone other than Abreu and Vaughn will be able to produce elite offensive numbers next year and they can play together, so unless we want to rehash the “more bats than spots” fallacy, you resign Abreu as the surest thing and then let the rest of the chips fall where they may.

upnorthsox

“However, if you told me that this age-35 version of Abreu was running a .375 OBP in place of a .500 slugging percentage even though the plunkings have ceased, it would’ve merited a hug”

I read that and I’m haunted with the image of Jim hugging Jose like in this commercial:

Nevermind

Last edited 1 month ago by upnorthsox
MrStealYoBase

I think blaming the hitting coach is an overdone and reactionary take. After all, “does anyone really know what a hitting coach does?”

That being said, the complete power outage across the roster does seem to belie an organizational philosophy that just isn’t working. Every player that’s spent at least a full season with the major league club looks to be going opposite field rather than pull-side. Players make the same mistakes in their approach over and over again (Luis Robert swinging at balls first-pitch, Leury rolling over outside pitches to the right side). I don’t think firing Menecchino is a cure-all, but that should preclude a discussion of whether the organization has fundamental flaws with the way they approach the offensive side of the ball.

dongutteridge

This team should definitely be deadline sellers.

HallofFrank

They definitely should… not sell. I mean, what do you think they’d get in return for Abreu or Pollock? Virtually nothing. They might as well see what happens

soxygen

The rest of the 2022 White Sox season: We might as well see what happens.

Someone get Brooks Boyer on the phone- I think we have ourselves a slogan.

The good news is that it is evergreen content. They can just use it again next year.

Augusto Barojas

I agree that I wouldn’t sell without getting something in return. I”m not so sure they would get nothing for Abreu, he isn’t worthless, esp if he keeps hitting. Pollock I’d give away just to get out of the 10M they own him next year. No brainer there. Guys I’d listen to offers on would be Liam, Kelly, Bummer, or Graveman – if they got something decent in return. Relievers are very replaceable (and they are GREAT at signing them!), so I’d be all for unloading any of theirs for a pretty decent prospect or two. They can replace them without damaging their chances next year.

I hope they are not buyers unless it is a core piece like Jazz Chisholm who would be with the team for a while. This isn’t the year to trade what little young talent they have to improve their near zero chances this year.

HallofFrank

If they are open to moving Liam or Graveman, then, yeah, maybe they’d get something more interesting. I guess Abreu could bring back a 40 FV or something. But I doubt his market would be that strong.

And “near zero chances this year” is surely hyperbole. But according to FG they still have like a 40% chance to make the playoffs. I’d want to see more life and a closer gap before hopping on the buy train. But three strong weeks would almost certainly make them buyers.

upnorthsox

How about Pollock and Graveman or Kelly for Michael Busch? We could take back David Price too to help balance out salaries. I would do that trade right now and still sell it as going for it.

shaggy65

We should move Abreu just so he can finally be on a team that competes for a title. Any return is just gravy.

dongutteridge

You’re all forgetting about Cueto. If he keeps pitching like this he could bring back a decent prospect.

The Sox could get a decent haul of young talent with deadline trades that still keep the same window open for next year.

This team ain’t shit even if they somehow manage to stumble into the playoffs thru the Comedy Central.

Last edited 1 month ago by dongutteridge
chipporter

And Leury starts at 2B tonight…I’m sure because of handedness…that and hardheadedness

Augusto Barojas

There have been several articles this week written about Leury and how they should DFA him. It’s like La Clown reads that stuff and just wants to stick it to the fans. Seriously. He’s like a demented man-child.

I think he basically is addicted to misery and likes to spread it around. There is no rational thought behind anything he does, all childish nonsense.

To Err is Herrmann

Perhaps if all Sox fans began cheering for Leury and demanding he start every game, TLR might out of stubborn arrogance try to prove us wrong by benching him. As direct complaint and vitriol seems to have no effect on TLR, Hahn and JR, maybe satire, irony and reverse psychology might work better. But I suspect none of them really care. The White Sox just seem to be a hobby for all three.

Augusto Barojas

Honestly I think you are on to something. TLR isn’t playing Leury out of bad judgment, it seems more like out of pure spite. For the fans, anybody who criticizes him.

He is the worst person they could have picked to manage this team out of all possible candidates.