Sports

Astros Week: Landing Abreu and What This Means for Yuli, JV

Will Yuli Gurriel be a casualty of the Jose Abreu signing?
Will Yuli Gurriel be a casualty of the Jose Abreu signing? Photo by Jack Gorman
On Monday, it was widely reported that the Astros had come to an agreement to sign veteran Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu to a deal worth three years and $60 million. Abreu was one of the key targets by the Astros this offseason and a huge improvement to the lineup. Abreu, who was one of the better contact hitters in 2022 will probably hit sixth in this lineup and could add some big numbers to a unit that had some power outages last season.

This leaves us with questions as to what the Astros do next, what it means for some of their remaining unrestricted free agents, and if owner Jim Crane will eclipse the luxury tax threshold.

Astros add huge bat in Abreu.

The right handed Cuban first baseman saw a dip in his power last season with only 15 homers and 75 RBIs. But, he was also in the top four in expected batting average and hit .304 from the plate with and OPS of .824. He hits the ball hard and doesn't strike out a ton. And had he hit in Minute Maid Park last year, he would have 22 homers based solely on the distance of his hits during the year. The 2020 MVP and 2014 Rookie of the Year is 36. The three-year deal would seem to be within range given his skillset. If he can rekindle even some of that power in 2023 and keep the average high, the top six hitters are going to be brutal for opposing pitchers.

What happens to Yuli Gurriel?

Not only is La PiƱa a fan favorite and a clubhouse stabilizer, he remains an outstanding glove both at first and third. It has been reported the team wants Gurriel back to play a utility role, perhaps replacing Aledmys Diaz, who is also a free agent. Last season, Gurriel was substantially better in games coming off a day of rest than in back-to-back, likely one of the reasons he performed so well in the postseason until an injury ended his run in the World Series. Most believed he would be replaced, but he could still contribute from the bench.

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The Astros will proceed with caution in re-signing Michael Brantley.
Photo by Jack Gorman
Is that the end for Justin Verlander as an Astro?

Since the beginning of the offseason, it was unlikely that JV would be back. He is said to want a deal that runs in the $40 million per year range and that is beyond what the Astros are going to want to spend on the Cy Young winner. It could be argued that their depth in the rotation not only helped them make a decision on Verlander, but gave them the ability to sign Abreu. Even without Verlander, the Astros will return five starters plus Hunter Brown to one of the best pitching rotations in baseball. Don't be surprised if JV winds up facing the Astros next year in the World Series if he signs with the Dodgers or Mets.

What is left for the team?

Even without a general manager, it's clear that Crane is running the show and not afraid to open his wallet. The team still has several big names eligible for arbitration including Framber Valdez and Kyle Tucker. They may want to try and extend them and possibly Christian Javier. They still would like to add a lefty bat to the lineup. That could be Michael Brantley, but they are proceeding with caution as he recovers from a shoulder injury that cost him much of the 2022 season. If not, there are options in free agency and via trade. Might they add a veteran backup catcher or go with heir apparent Kory Lee as backup to Martin Maldonado? Still plenty of fuel left for the hot stove this offseason.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke