Astros reach agreement with veteran 1B Jose Abreu (Source)

HOUSTON — Less than a month after winning their second World Series in six seasons, the Astros on Monday made a move to boost their repeat chances by agreeing to a deal with top free agent Jose Abreu, a source told MLB. com. The transaction is pending physical.

USA Today’s Bob Nightingale was first to report the news, which has not been confirmed by the Astros. A source said the deal would be for three years.

Abreu, who turns 36 on Jan. 29, played his first nine major league seasons with the White Sox and has consistently been one of the best middle-order run producers in the game. Last year, Abreu hit .304 with an .824 OPS, hitting 62 walks and posting a . 378 on-base percentage that ranks second in his illustrious career.

The Astros targeted Abreu early in free agency, and he was considered their number one target. He’s still an elite contact hitter and will have plenty of RBI opportunities hitting the sixth in the Houston lineup, behind Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker.

Abreu saw a power downturn last year, with 15 home runs and 75 RBIs in 157 games, but he should take advantage of Crawford’s bins in left field at Minute Maid Park. In his last 55 games and 234 starts last season, Abreu has one home run and 20 of a backup.

“I didn’t hit the Homers,” Abreu said through White Sox interpreter Billy Russo during his final regular season interview. “That’s one of my goals that I have to work on during my rest period, trying to get stronger.”

2020 American League Player of the Year, 2014 Player of the Year, three-time All-Star winner and three-time Silver Slugger Champion was again a Silver Slugger finalist in 2014. Abreu would finish his White Sox career as the third-best all-time team in home runs with 243 while he ranks fifth in RBIs with 863 and sixth in doubles with 303.

Abreu’s value goes beyond field contributions. Abreu is a leader in the club and a detective, not to mention a leader by example with an intense work ethic. He’s worked hard to become a solid defensive baseman since coming to the White Sox from Cuba via a six-year, $68 million deal prior to the 2014 season — a contract previously extended to three years worth $50 million prior to the ’20.

What does this mean for Gurel?

Abreu’s deal potentially ends the tenure of veteran first baseman Yuli Guriel in Houston. A free agent, Gurriel was a starter in Houston’s six consecutive ALCS game series and is a free agent, along with right-hander Justin Verlander. If neither of them return next year, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and Lance McCullers Jr. will be the last remaining 2017 World Series champions.

A popular player on the club, Gurriel, 38, batted . 242 with eight homers and 53 RBIs in the regular season but had a strong postseason, hitting . 347 with two homers in 12 games. He suffered a right MCL sprain in Game 5 of the World Series and did not play in the Game 6 playoff against the Phillies on November 5.

What’s next for the Astros?

The Astros still wanted to add another bat in left field but didn’t close the door on veteran re-sign Michael Brantley. Earlier this month, Astros owner Jim Crane said the club is taking a wait-and-see approach with Brantley, who is recovering from arthroscopic labrum surgery on his right shoulder that he had in August. 288 with 14 doubles, five homers, 26 RBIs, and a .785 OPS in 64 games as the Astros’ starting left fielder in 2022 but has not played yet June 26.

If the Astros decide not to re-sign Brantley, they will have an interest in free center fielder Michael Conforto, a left-handed hitter who spent the first seven years of his career with the Mets. He didn’t play last season while recovering from shoulder surgery after cutting .232/.344/.384 with 14 homers and 55 RBI in 2021.

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