White Sox at winter meetings: Sell on Abreu? Buy on Harper?
At the winter meetings two years ago, the White Sox generated two major headlines.
The first came when Chris Sale was traded to the Red Sox. The second came the following day, when Adam Eaton was dealt to the Nationals.
Moving Sale and Eaton clearly signaled the beginning of a rebuild, and general manager Rick Hahn still has one veteran trade chip left if he decides to add even more prospects - Jose Abreu.
The Sox's best hitter and a two-time Sliver Slugger, Abreu's name came up in another trade rumor last week. This time, it's the Dodgers who have reported interest.
Entering the final year of his contract, Abreu has repeatedly said he's open to an extension and wants to be with the White Sox when they turn the corner.
Hahn has repeatedly said Abreu is a great fit on such a young team, so a new deal may be in the works.
"We've made no secret about our affection for Jose, and not only from a standpoint of what he contributes between the white lines but what he does in the clubhouse," Hahn said. "Although he is going into the last year of his contract, that by no means precludes him from being part of our future here."
With the winter meetings opening Monday in Las Vegas, trading Abreu would be significant news. But there is a much bigger potential headline, and that's Bryce Harper.
Having plenty of money to spend, the Sox are viewed as one of a handful of teams favored to land Harper, who is a free agent after reportedly turning down a 10-year, $300 million offer to stay with the Nationals.
With Washington last season, the 26-year-old outfielder batted .249/.393/.496 with 34 home runs and 100 RBI.
Harper, who broke in with the Nationals in 2012 at age 19, is slashing .279/.388/.512 with 184 homers and 521 RBI over his career.
While Hahn would not confirm or deny it, the White Sox reportedly met with Harper last month in Las Vegas, his hometown. Hall of Famer Jim Thome, Hahn's special assistant, took part in the sales pitch.
The Phillies, Dodgers, Cubs Yankees and Astros are also believed to be pursuing Harper, and they are all teams that are legitimate playoff contenders in 2019.
The Sox last made the postseason in 2008, but they believe they can sell high-profile free agents like Harper and Manny Machado on their bright future.
"You have to understand these guys are professionals and they understand deep nuances about each individual franchise," Hahn said. "The idea of potentially being part of a winner in Chicago has very broad appeal. The chance to be part of the White Sox organization based upon what our future looks like, futures that these players are familiar with and understand having seen personally some of these young players play or video or talked to other players about them, it's something that they buy into."
Having the chance to hit in front of Eloy Jimenez might be the biggest selling point for Harper.
While he likely won't join the White Sox until mid-April to delay his service time, Jimenez has already established himself as one of the game's top young hitters.
The 22-year-old outfielder is back playing winter ball with Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Republic, and Jimenez was batting .407 (11-for-27) with 1 home run and 7 RBI in 7 games.
"Good to see him back playing and running around the feeling healthy and obviously doing some damage," Hahn said. "We look forward to a long run of that in the not too distant future here in Chicago."