Replacing Abreu's bat one of several needs for White Sox

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Jose Abreu was quickly plucked off the free-agent market by the Astros, but the White Sox have Andrew Vaughn ready to replace him at first base.

    Jose Abreu was quickly plucked off the free-agent market by the Astros, but the White Sox have Andrew Vaughn ready to replace him at first base. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 12/3/2022 4:06 PM

Jose Abreu is not getting any younger, and you have to seriously wonder if his career-low 15 home runs this season was a blip or sign of things to come.

That's for Abreu's new team -- the Astros -- to worry about.

 

After nine years of big production in the middle of the lineup, the White Sox have to find another bat or three to make up for Abreu's absence.

Last week, the 35-year-old first baseman was quickly plucked off the free-agent market. Abreu signed a three-year, $60 million contract with Houston.

"Objectively, you can look at the roster and feel like this obviously makes sense to have Andrew (Vaughn) installed at first base and have Gavin Sheets perhaps get some opportunities there or occasionally perhaps Yasmani (Grandal)," Sox general manager Rick Hahn said after Abreu joined the Astros.

"But it doesn't remove the emotional side of it, which we're all dealing with for a portion of the day. Then we resume work trying to improve this roster with feeling like first base is not an area of need given Andrew's presence."

Vaughn has an impact bat, and he should be able to better this year's team-high 17 home runs and 76 RBI while playing his natural position instead of trying to stay afloat in left and right field.

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But Abreu's subtraction puts even more pressure on the White Sox to find quality help at second base and especially in the outfield.

Vaughn is moving to the infield, AJ Pollock is a free agent after declining his $13 million player option for 2023 and taking a $5 million buyout and Adam Engel was non-tendered.

As it stands now, the Sox have Luis Robert in center field and Eloy Jimenez in left -- assuming he doesn't remain a full-time designated hitter.

Top prospect Oscar Colas could be the starting right fielder when the season opens with a March 30 game at Houston. This year, the left-handed hitter slashed .314/.371/.524 with 23 homers over three minor-league levels and ended the season at Class AAA Charlotte.

"The acclimation period is behind him, now it's just a matter of showing that he's ready and belongs in the big leagues," Hahn said of the 24-year-old Colas. "We believe in this kid. We think a lot of Oscar Colas. Don't lose sight of that."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The White Sox aren't likely to spend big on a free-agent outfielder and appear more likely to trade for needed help.

As for the rotation, the Sox should be set after reportedly signing Mike Clevinger to a one-year, $12 million contract.

While the deal has yet to be officially announced, Clevinger joins Dylan Cease, Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito and Michael Kopech in the starting five.

All-star closer Liam Hendriks finished second in the American League with 37 saves this season.

He's a trade candidate, but Hendriks has some arm issues and it remains to be seen if he can get back to pitching multiple innings.

Headed toward his age 34 season, Hendriks is owed $14 million next year and has a $15 million club option for 2024.

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