Going into the 2022 MLB offseason, the Houston Astros had two key issues that they need to fix: sign Justin Verlander and upgrade at first base. Sure, Yulieski Gurriel is not the worst option to have, but if the team wants a repeat as World Series champions, it would be great for them to find an improvement. On Monday, the team found one in Jose Abreu.
Abreu wasn’t the top option for the Astros as the team previously went after Anthony Rizzo. His combination of great contact hitting along with terrific defense at first base would have immediately made this team tremendously better. However, Rizzo opted to remain with the Yankees on a multi-year contract to the Astros’ dismay. Despite this, Abreu is certainly not a bad option, especially at the plate.
Take that .304 batting average in 157 games for example. That was good for 8th in all of baseball. Sure, he’s getting to the wrong side of 30 and did have a decrease in power in 2022, but it’s really not a big deal with the weapons that Houston already possesses. This is a team that has a lineup consisting of guys like Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve. When you add Abreu to that, it just becomes that much more of a dangerous lineup even with that decline in power. He’s that great of a hitter and the statistics easily back that up.
I do think that one thing I’ll be focusing on for Abreu will be his postseason hitting with Houston. Last postseason, players like Jose Altuve failed to hit consistently well in the playoffs and when those mistakes happen, your team will need a player like Abreu to hit well. That may be the biggest impact he can make for this Astros team.
Defensively, the former White Sox first baseman can definitely get the job done. He has a -0.9 dWAR, higher than a player like Rizzo with -1.1, and has shown that he can consistently help his team with great effort and some spectacular catches. While I don’t personally believe that Abreu is a better defensive option than Abreu as statistics suggest, he is easily an improvement over Gurriel. As one of the most durable players in the MLB with his defensive abilities, this is a huge upgrade.
The question is how much better do the Astros get with Abreu in 2023? Last season, the team finished with 106 wins and were on top of the American League with the best record in baseball. Of course, that concluded with a championship ring and if the team can retain Verlander on their pitching staff, that record is sure to get even better. Abreu helps round out Houston’s batting order and with an improved offense under Abreu, I could certainly see them getting an extra five-to-seven wins if they’re also able to resign Verlander and grab a potential small upgrade in their pitching rotation along the way.
Does this make Houston sure to repeat as champions in 2023? Nothing is certain, especially with the unpredictability of the MLB playoffs, but this is as close as you’re going to get, especially if the team resigns Verlander. Abreu fills the team’s missing hole in the lineup as first base and simply adds to a deadly lineup for the American League. With the American League not looking particularly strong, especially if the Yankees fail to sign Aaron Judge, this move helps cement the roster as the favorites to come out of the American League next season.