With Jose Abreu, the Astros address biggest weakness

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Charles Rex Arbogast/AP/Shutterstock (13438368c) Chicago White Sox’s Jose Abreu makes the turn at first in a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins, in Chicago Twins White Sox Baseball, Chicago, United States – 04 Oct 2022

With Jose Abreu, the Astros address biggest weakness

The World Champion Astros are about to get richer. According to multiple reports, the team will sign free-agent first baseman and 2020 AL MVP Jose Abreu.

Considering what Yuli Gurriel has done for the Houston Astros in his career, it was hard to imagine that first base would be a weak spot in 2022. But Gurriel batted just .242 with eight homers and 53 RBI for an 84 OPS+ during the regular season. While he did turn it on in the Postseason, the Astros had a decision to make on the 38-year-old first baseman. While it would appear that his time in Houston is up, Brian McTaggart reports he might be brought back in a utility role.

Bob Nightengale first reported the Astros are close to signing first baseman Jose Abreu to a three-year deal to play first base, and Chandler Rome reported that all three years are guaranteed with no options involved in the agreement. Mark Berman reported that the deal would pay Abreu $19.5 million per year to bring the Cuban first baseman to Houston, after spending the first nine years of his big-league career with the Chicago White Sox. Like Gurriel, Abreu brings a strong pedigree to the Astros. Abreu is 35 years old. He will be 36 when the season starts, meaning he will play in Houston until his age-39 season.

What can Abreu do for the Astros?

Abreu hit .304 with 15 home runs and 75 RBIs for the Chicago White Sox in 2022. His OPS+ in 2021 was 133, 33% better than the average player. Over the past two seasons, Abreu’s eye for the strike zone has improved as he’s set new career highs in walks with 61 and 62, respectively. Last season also saw Abreu cut back on his strikeouts, reducing his K% from 19.8% to 16.2% from 2021 to 2022 compared to an MLB average of 21.9%.

The Astros are signing a player that plays excellent defense, avoids striking out, and hit 30 or more homers in five of his nine years with the White Sox. He also won American League Rookie of the Year in 2014. The Astros reportedly tried to sign him before he signed with the White Sox in 2014, instead signing Gurriel in 2016. Adding Jose Abreu to a lineup that already features a great Cuban hitter in Yordan Alvarez and another one on the rise in Pedro Leon could prove valuable in the coming years.

Like Gurriel, Abreu is a respected clubhouse leader and will bring that trait to Houston with him. The reported $19.5 million per season being paid to Abreu is well above Spotrac’s projected market value of $12.7 million, so it is safe to say the Astros are doing what they feel it takes to make a much-needed upgrade at first base. Look for Houston to seek upgrades at designated hitter and backup catcher this offseason as well.

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