Even without a general manager, the Astros manage to pull off signing the 2020 AL MVP Jose Abreu on a three-year, $58.5 million deal. The Cuban native had spent nine years as a member of the Chicago White Sox, becoming a three-time all-star and silver slugger.
Fits Like a Glove
Only the Pirates got less offensive production from their first basemen in 2022, as Yuli Gurriel and Trey Mancini struggled mightily at the plate. That combo netted Houston a -1.4 fWAR, whereas Abreu posted 3.9 fWAR in 2022. It is hard to find a better 1-6 in any lineup with Abreu in Houston.
Still Got It?
Entering his age-36 season after posting a career-low slugging percentage in 2022, it’s fair to question if the Astros overpaid – but rest assured that Abreu is every bit worth his $20 million per year price tag. For one, he is still hitting the crap out of the ball, evidenced by his 51.8% Hard-Hit Rate, which places him in the 97th percentile of all hitters. Abreu is the rare power hitter that can also hit for contact, ranking in at least the 92nd percentile in both expected batting average and slugging. The big reason for the power decrease was his less-than-optimal launch angle of eight degrees, which was two and a half degrees lower than his career average. However, Abreu has already stated this will be a working point in the off-season, and Minute Maid’s cozy confines should help Abreu see more balls leave the yard. With the power decrease came increased discipline, posting a career-high 62 walks in 2022 and the lowest strikeout rate of his career.
Jim Crane is fully in control and is ready to spend money to prolong the Astros’ dynasty. Crane said in Abreu’s introductory press conference the team would continue to look for a catcher, outfielder, and even more pitching. Given the high per-year dollar amount and the already loaded rotation, it appears Justin Verlander will be wearing different colors come next spring. But, the Astros certainly aren’t out on big-name free agents yet. Multiple reports indicated they are still interested in Wilson Contreras and Brandon Nimmo. Currently, the outfield appears to be the most pressing need to relieve Yordan Alvarez of everyday left-field work. Ideally, this outfielder would also bat left-handed, as Alvarez and Kyle Tucker are the only two current lefties – so, hello Brandon Nimmo.
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