A New Leader in the Clubhouse: Takeaways from José Abreu’s introductory press conference

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Duane Burleson/AP/Shutterstock (13400850af) Chicago White Sox’s Jose Abreu takes a swing at a pitch during a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers, in Detroit White Sox Tigers Baseball, Detroit, United States – 17 Sep 2022

A New Leader in the Clubhouse: Takeaways from José Abreu’s introductory press conference

José Abreu started the press conference by saying, “I just want to be part of a great family…and I want to win.”

Astros owner Jim Crane mentioned that Abreu pulled out his phone last night, and he had the phone numbers of every Astros player – even with spring training still more than two months away. Jose Abreu is seemingly revered as a perfect teammate and has friends all over the league to show for it. He will now replace fellow Cuban player Yuli Gurriel at first base for the Houston Astros, who hope that he will help bring their clubhouse closer together.

Speaking on Yuli Gurriel, Abreu mentioned that he greatly respects him and hopes he can continue playing in the big leagues. Crane said that the Astros are still interested in bringing Gurriel back and that, generally, the Astros are still active on the market. Bringing back Justin Verlander is still a possibility for the Astros as well, but many expect that other teams will price Houston out of the market.

Why did Abreu choose Houston?

Reports say that the Cleveland Guardians had a three-year offer on the table for Abreu before he accepted the Astros’ deal. Jim Crane mentioned that Astros legend Jeff Bagwell flew with the Astros’ contingent to Florida to negotiate with Abreu. While Bagwell made it clear following the press conference that he has no interest in being the GM, he is willing to help the organization as much as possible. Abreu also felt that Crane valued him as a player and appreciated the time Crane put in with his agent to get this deal done.

Of course, the Astros’ ability to win was the first thing that Abreu mentioned when discussing his decision. Jose Abreu arrives in Houston hoping to win a World Series, and there is no doubt that the Astros have what it takes to repeat.

Abreu said the White Sox made him a “respectful offer,” but he would leave it at that. The White Sox expected to compete for a World Series last year, but injuries and poor performance led to a disappointing season on the south side of Chicago. In Houston, Abreu steps into a situation where the Astros are one of the favorites to return to the World Series even before adding his bat.

I’m sure the $19.5 million salary to play for a World Series contender did not hurt, either.

Why did the Astros want Abreu?

“The numbers speak for themselves…He’s gonna put some pop in the lineup,” said Crane when asked why they wanted to sign Abreu.

Jeff Bagwell, speaking after the press conference, described Jose Abreu as a perfect fit for the Astros’ clubhouse if it does indeed lose Yuli Gurriel. Bagwell feels like Abreu was the perfect person to add to this roster to help the Astros win another World Series in 2023. As I see it, it is good that Bagwell has a voice in the Astros’ player acquisitions. As a former player, Bagwell certainly understands the value of strong clubhouse culture.

What you will not see is the Astros signing a player like Cody Bellinger. Given the clear importance the Astros are placing on positive clubhouse culture, it would not make sense for Houston to sign a player with potentially strained relationships with other players – especially given the recent decline in Bellinger’s on-field performance.

Abreu mentioned that he felt he spoiled White Sox fans with 30-home run seasons, so people began to expect them. He feels he will do well playing half his games at Minute Maid Park, known around baseball as a hitter’s paradise. The Astros agree as Bagwell called Abreu their “number one target.”

What’s next for the Astros?

Owner Jim Crane says the Astros will remain active and could potentially surpass the luxury tax threshold this year. Crane listed catcher, outfielder, and pitcher among positions Houston may try to target next this offseason. As Astros’ fans have seen in the past, it is impossible to have too many talented pitchers on the roster. While Crane suggested the Astros still have a chance at signing Justin Verlander, he also said he has not talked to him recently.

My best guess at the Astros’ next move is signing Willson Contreras to catch and at times, play DH, spelling Yordan Alvarez at times when he needs a day off. I am under the impression there is enough mutual interest in bringing Gurriel back as well, so long as he’s willing to take a utility role. Unless the price drops, I believe Verlander will go elsewhere, and I’m okay with that.

Welcome to Houston, José Abreu. Astros fans will love you.

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