The Houston Astros signed the biggest name in free agency yet in Jose Abreu. So now what do the World Series champions have up their sleeve next?
At the start of the offseason, the Houston Astros identified upgrading the first base position among their top priorities. The front office targeted Anthony Rizzo, who ultimately re-signed with the Yankees, and left them with three options: Jose Abreu, Josh Bell and Yuli Gurriel.
Abreu quickly emerged as their top option and, on Monday, the veteran slugger and the Astros agreed to a three-year contract that is worth around $20 million per season, pending a physical, according to multiple sources.
Abreu, 36 in January, had spent the previous nine seasons with the Chicago White Sox. But they looked to get younger at first base and designated hitter, having young internal options such as Eloy Jimenez and Andrew Vaughn, and were viewed as unlikely to retain Abreu. They are confident that each will step in and become long-term stalwarts, though replacing his production will be a lofty task.
In nine seasons, Abreu has hit .292/.354/.506 with an .860 OPS. He has 243 home runs, hitting at least 22 in seven of those seasons. He has a 134 OPS+ and has posted a wRC+ of at least 114 in each season. There have been questions about his drop in power — he had a career-low 15 home runs this past season — though he also produced a career-best 16.2 strikeout percentage. The Astros, too, are confident that his power will resurface in the hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park.
Despite winning the World Series, the Astros viewed first base as one of their weak spots. With Abreu now signed, that position is now a strength. So where do they go from here?
Houston Astros: What’s next after signing Jose Abreu?
Starting pitcher is among their priorities, with superstar right-hander Justin Verlander still a free agent and reportedly taking visits with the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets, among others. Catcher is another position that the Astros have explored and free-agent catcher Willson Contreras, who the team was close to acquiring at the trade deadline in August, is an option. The team is also open to a reunion with Gurriel, who could play in a utility role.
Making those pursuits more complicated is that the Astros still don’t have a general manager after firing James Click. For now, the point person is assistant general manager Bill Firkus, according to sources. He’s succeeded in filling arguably the team’s biggest hole, adding one of the top sluggers on the open market. But their offseason gets more complicated from here, starting with Verlander, and extending to who the Astros might add at catcher alongside Maldonado.
Having a general manager would make navigating that easier, of course. But in signing Abreu and reliever Rafael Montero, Firkus has already put the Astros in strong position to potentially repeat as World Series champions in 2023.