First baseman Jose Abreu’s contract runs out after the season, and while it’s difficult to imagine finishing his career with another team, it’s not out of the question. After all, the Sox would be well served to allow Andrew Vaughn slide into the position he’s best suited for defensively — first base.
But Abreu, only two years removed from his American League MVP season, will make it tough on the Sox to let him walk in free agency.
At 35, Abreu’s 14 home runs lag behind his career pace but he was hitting .299/.380/.472 with a team-high .852 OPS going into the Sox’ game at Texas Saturday. How much longer does Abreu want to play?
“As long as I can, or as long as life wants me to,” he said through translator Billy Russo this weekend. “I’m in a good place right now. My family is in a good place. I’m in a very good organization here. We’ll see. I don’t put numbers or limits. We’ll see what life has for me and I will go with it.”
Abreu is in the final season of a three-year, $50 million contract. While maybe not quite the Gold Glove caliber first baseman manager Tony La Russa touts him as, Abreu has improved his fielding during his career, and he ran a long way to make a sliding catch on the warning track in foul territory to retire Marcus Semien for starter Michael Kopech’s first out Saturday. And Abreu still sets the standard in the Sox clubhouse for preparation, resistance to taking days off and commitment to pregame routine.
“His work ethic and his competitive fire is as good as anybody I’ve ever been around,” Russa said. “He’s tough. Very, very tough.”
Abreu has avoided the hamstring and other soft tissue injuries that hampered several of his teammates but he deals with aches and pains that are evident at times. But he never wants a day off and often plays hurt. He has always pushed back against designated hitter duty when managers see fit to give him a physical break, although La Russa said Abreu is resisting less this season.
“What’s different from last year is, I’m not in fear of DH-ing him,” La Russa said, alluding in jest to possibly physical harm from his star player. “I think he knows it benefits him and benefits us.”
Abreu, as he often does, attributes his success to his work. In the workout room, running in the outfield hours before games and in the hitting cages.
“My body feels good,” he said. “But this time of the season, my body always feels good.”
This time of year — this month in particular — has always been good for Abreu, a career .333/.388/.603 hitter with 58 homers and a .991 OPS in August. All of those numbers are career bests, and the Sox’ lineup that ranks 17th in the majors needs that kind of production to infuse some punch.
“I hope that I can carry that into the future,” Abreu said, “and keep feeling good and healthy as I always have in August. There’s not a key for me. Just work.”