The Astros are finalizing a deal that would bring veteran first baseman Jose Abreu to Houston, a source told MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart on Monday. Bob Nightengale was first to report the news, which has not been confirmed by the Astros. When completed, the deal is expected to be in 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 top middle-of-the-order run producers in the game. His 2022 campaign featured a drop in power to 15 home runs and 75 RBIs, marking just the second time Abreu finished below 25 and 100 in these particular categories in a full-schedule season.
Over his final 55 games, Abreu had one home run and 20 RBIs in 234 plate appearances.
“I didn’t hit homers,” said Abreu through White Sox interpreter Billy Russo during his last regular-season interview. “That’s one of my goals to work on during the offseason, trying to increase power.”
But it’s not as if Abreu’s elite level of play completely took a dive. The first baseman hit .304 with an .824 OPS, posting a .378 on-base percentage that ranks second in his illustrious career and a career-high 62 walks. In a highly disappointing season for the White Sox, where injuries and underperformance were an unfortunate but common theme, Abreu continued to set high standards and play 157 games.
The 2020 American League Most Valuable Player, 2014 AL Rookie of the Year, three-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger winner was once again a Silver Slugger finalist in ’22. If the deal is finalized, he will finish his White Sox career as the team’s third-leading all-time home run hitter at 243 while ranking fifth in RBIs at 863 and sixth in doubles at 303.
His value goes well beyond on-field contributions. Abreu is a leader in the clubhouse and the dugout, not to mention a leader by example with his intense work ethic. He has worked his way into a solid defensive first baseman since coming to the White Sox from Cuba via a six-year, $68 million deal prior to the 2014 season and then agreeing to a three-year, $50 million extension prior to ’20.
With the White Sox currently too designated hitter/first base heavy and Andrew Vaughn a natural to move to first base from the outfield, both Abreu and the White Sox seemed to understand a move away from the organization had arrived. Abreu left little doubt, though, there’s still plenty of desire to keep playing, even after his decade in MLB and his 10 seasons with Cienfuegos in the Cuban National Series.
“I’m hungry for more baseball,” Abreu said. “Once I lose that, then I know it’s time.”
“All 30 managers want to see José Abreu in their lineup,” said new White Sox manager Pedro Grifol when asked about Abreu during his introductory press conference. “He’s obviously a guy from the other side that when you see him play, he comes to play every day, he works hard, he plays hurt, he performs. He’s performed for a long time.”