This past offseason, the Chicago White Sox made big moves to show that they're serious about transitioning from a rebuilder to a contender. They brought in Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel, Edwin Encarnacion and Gio Gonzalez. But, in hindsight, one of their best moves of winter is turning out to be their three-year, $50 million contract extension given to longtime first baseman Jose Abreu.
Abreu, 33, has spent the entirety of his seven-year MLB career with the White Sox. After the club made the deal official, Abreu said,"everybody knows the group of talented players that we have, and I want to help guide them and together make the Chicago White Sox a championship team."
We still have a little less than three weeks left in the regular season, but Abreu is certainly holding up his end of bargain in terms of leading this young club (average age of 28.4) to the postseason.
Entering Tuesday, Abreu carries a 20-game hitting streak into the White Sox's two-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. To date, it's the longest hitting streak in MLB this season. And Abreu is just one hit shy of tying his career-best hit streak of 21 straight games, a mark he set during his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2014.
White Sox ace Lucas Giolito called Abreu "the heart and soul" of the team. Abreu is viewed at as the veteran leader on this young squad, and if the 2020 season is any indication of how the final act of Abreu's career is going to go, the White Sox are going to be in very good hands.
He's leading in the best way possible right now -- by example.
In the American League, Abreu sits atop for the number of games in 2020 with at least one hit. He's recorded hits in 32 of the White Sox's 41 games. Abreu also leads all AL position players in WAR with a 2.2 mark. Not far behind him is teammate and the potential AL Rookie of the Year this season, outfielder Luis Robert.
Abreu leads the team in home runs with 13, which is also tied for the fifth-most homers in all of baseball. Furthermore, Abreu's 40 RBI are currently an MLB-best, ranking above Fernando Tatis Jr. and Mike Trout.
The franchise mainstay is impressing so much that he has found himself in the AL MVP conversation. But the best part for the White Sox is that Abreu isn't alone in his spectacular season at the plate. Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez, Grandal and Nick Madrigal have all posted solid numbers. As a team, the White Sox lead the AL in OPS (.805), home runs (71), average (.269) and slugging (.472). In August, they hit a club record 54 home runs.
According to Sportsline, the White Sox have a 99.5 percent of making it into the 16-team expanded playoffs this year. It would be the club's first playoff appearance since 2008. As far as winning the AL Central, Chicago has stiff competition in Cleveland and the Twins, but Sportsline is still giving the team a 22.8 percent chance of taking home the division crown.
The White Sox are a great mix of veterans and talented youngsters who appear to genuinely enjoy each others' company (you simply don't make Tik Toks like these and not like each other) and they have fun playing together. But their goal is clear. This club wants to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
"It will be a dream come true, a result of the hard work we've done over the last few years," Abreu said of playing in October via MLB.com's Scott Merkin. "We as a team, as an organization, are in the right direction. We have to work hard, focus on the game, keep improving. That's the key. Hopefully, we'll be in the playoffs, and that will be important to me."