The rich get richer, Astros sign former MVP

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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Keith Allison.

Jose Abreu and Omar Narvaez fist bump, Baltimore, M.D., May 5, 2017.

Christopher Elwell, Sports Editor

Defending World Series champion Houston Astros made the very first big splash of the off-season by signing former American League Most Valuable Player Jose Abreu to a three-year deal worth $60 million.

Houston made a quick turnaround this offseason, having already lost general manager James Click two weeks ago, and signing one of the premier bats on the free agent market. One of the few holes in their lineup has now been filled, as the team will look to become the first to win back-to-back World Series titles for the first time in over 20 years.

Abreu was a franchise cornerstone for the Chicago White Sox since he entered the league in 2014, when he won Rookie of the Year and established himself as one of the better bats in the AL. Since then, the three-time All-Star has eclipsed 20 home runs in seven of his nine seasons with a career 134 OPS+, a stat that adjusts each player’s on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, separating outside factors such as ballparks. Chicago only reached the postseason twice during his tenure with the team, but he was a consistent bright spot and a favorite within the organization.

Houston struggled the entire 2022 season at first base; their combined slugging percentage ranking was tied second worst in the league and the second worst wRC+, which uses the player’s Runs Created, taking current trends around the league into account and adjusting the numbers to put into a measurable statistic. They also finished the season with just 10 home runs and 62 runs batted in by first basemen, both good for the lowest in baseball. A key offensive position has long been a point of concern for Houston, but with this addition, they may have found an answer.

Entering this season at age 36, Abreu’s offensive production has started to decline from previous seasons. He has been posting career lows in home runs and slugging percentage. However, the addition of Abreu does add another big bat to an Astros lineup that did not see much success in the bottom of their order, who will also now benefit from playing in a smaller stadium that may help bring back some of his old power numbers. Abreu’s ability to pull the ball with authority to the shorter left field fence in Houston bodes well for his new team, in addition to a newer offensive approach focused on becoming more contact-oriented, which saw his strikeout numbers cut down by over 5% from 2021 to 2022.

Houston has seen important players leave in past seasons, but their ability to replace those players and continue to build a team culture played a massive part in their dominance over the American League. Bringing in a veteran presence such as Abreu to an already-experienced roster fresh off a World Series win will benefit the entire team, which remains the favorite to come out of the AL in 2023.