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Yoan Moncada debuts with Jose Abreu at side

This is why you haven’t heard many trade rumors

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago White Sox Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

For somebody who is 30 years old and under team control for only two more years, Jose Abreu has remained curiously absent from most rumor mill activity.

He’ll pop up in discussions about players the White Sox could move, but there hasn’t been any documented interest from either side, whether it’s the White Sox fielding offers or receiving them.

I’ve had a sense that he’s off limits because of Yoan Moncada, which has sounded a little silly to write and talk about at a distant without direct confirmation. It’s not terribly different from using Abreu’s presence to hang Yasiel Puig trade rumors, and that was like forcing a college friendship with somebody you didn’t talk to in high school because you don’t know anybody else there. In both cases, the reasoning feels flimsy:

“... because Jose Abreu!”
“You’re going to have to show your work.”
(rifles through papers) “Here.”

But unlike Puig, the White Sox actually acquired Moncada, turning hypotheticals into actuals. From that point on, all signs pointed to Abreu serving as Moncada’s corner man. From December:

"I think it is very good for me and for everybody," Moncada said. "I can reconnect with Abreu again and he's a person who is going to give me some advice. He will be like a tutor for me.

"To have a Latino manager is something I think will be very good, too, because we can communicate in the same language. I feel good that I'm going to play with Abreu and have a Latino manager. But that doesn't change anything for me. My biggest thing is to play and be the best player I can be."

From March:

“We talk around three, four times a week,’’ Abreu said of Moncada. “He’s a very good kid. He’s like a baby. We met when we were playing in Cienfuegos in Cuba, and I know I have to take care of him.’’

Also from March:

‘‘It is really, really tough for everybody who comes from Cuba and has to deal with all of the opportunities here,’’ said Abreu, who came to the Sox from Cuba in late 2013. ‘‘All of the new things, the new life, it’s very tough to face all that at once.’’ [...]

‘‘The key is to try to be around good people, people you can trust who can help you,’’ Abreu said. ‘‘That’s what we try to do here with him. That’s why I’m here — to give him advice and help him in that process.

And so on and so forth. I interpreted this as making all trade rumors and speculation a waste of time, at least until Moncada has firmly established himself in Chicago as a reliable everyday player. He’s too important to the rebuild to not provide him all available and willing support, and the free-agent and trade markets have been too indifferent to corner players to think moving Abreu would be worth unsettling cornerstones.

But if that wasn’t enough evidence, everybody involved made it more clear on the day Moncada debuted, because guess who picked him up at the airport?

“It was a good ride,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “We got a little bit nervous because the traffic was bad, but it was good. He’s going to do great here. He’s an outstanding player, and I’m going to be here right by his side to help him in anything that he needs help. Of course, he’s going to have some butterflies flying around his stomach the first game and probably during the first week or so, but I’m going to be there for him.”

And if you want a third party:

“Talk about leadership,” Renteria said. “He’s an individual who has been with the White Sox for a few years and is from a very similar background. Cuba, playing at the major league level, he wanted to make sure he had direct contact with him and make sure to kind of lay the foundation, to kind of give a sense of what is going on from someone who has been around.”

There’ll come a point where Moncada won’t need the help, and it may come sooner than expected if his first few plate appearances are any indication. He didn’t offer at anything out of the zone on Wednesday night against the Dodgers.

Baseball Savant

He should’ve probably struck out in his first plate appearance on a 1-2 backdoor cutter from Kenta Maeda, but he got the call and ended up walking. He then grounded out to first in his second trip after a 108-mph liner that went just foul down the right field line. He finished his rain-abbreviated night with a 102-mph lineout to center against Ross Stripling. He wasn’t tested much in the field because the Dodgers hit most things well over his head, although he did complete a 6-4-3 double play.

While the White Sox crumbled around him, Moncada’s debut was enough to turn heads, both inside the park ...

He was greeted like a conquering hero when he strode to the plate for the first time in the second inning. The entire ballpark stood and pointed their smartphones towards the batter's box, some switching into photo mode, some taking video and others on square because they still couldn't figure the darn phone out.

They cheered his foul balls. They cheered when Moncada worked the count from 0-2 to 2-2. There was dead silence before he took ball three, but then they were back on their feet again and gave him another standing ovation for coaxing his second major-league walk after a cup of coffee with the Red Sox last season.

This is how it's supposed to be when a new face of a franchise arrives, and you could sense something different from the crowd of 24,907 as soon as you walked inside.

... and outside it: