Jim Crane the General Manager! Yee-HAW! Let’s dish out above-market deals for aging veterans! Rafael Montero, YOU get an $11.5 million AAV deal despite having a 4.64 career ERA! Jose Abreu, come on down to the Houston Astros!
How about $20 million per year through your age-38 season, sir?! Oh, you’ll take it? Because it’s bigger than the three-year, $50 million contract you signed with the White Sox after the 2019 season?
Ok, ok. Was it a “good deal” for the Astros? Absolutely. They filled their first base vacancy (left by Yuli Gurriel) with a high-profile signing and deepened their lineup even more. Abreu is also one of the most durable players in MLB, missing just 86 games since debuting in 2014. Unbelievable.
But wasn’t Gurriel one of the Astros’ most important playoff performers since 2017? It’s not to say Abreu is incapable of performing on the big stage, but 85 games vs seven in the postseason is a significant gap.
Also, how much better will this make the Astros? They’re already the best team in the league. Gurriel terrorized everyone en route to their World Series victory. They’re also going to lose Justin Verlander, Michael Brantley and Aledmys Diaz, all of whom carried varying degrees of importance over the last few years.
The Yankees have no need to worry about Jose Abreu joining the Astros
Abreu’s offensive profile fits perfectly with the Astros’ offensive approach. He’s aggressive yet patient. He makes a ton of contact. He (historically) doesn’t strike out a ton. But … don’t the Astros have two DH candidates now with Abreu and Yordan Alvarez both on the roster?
Abreu is far worse defensively than Gurriel, who had his worst defensive season in 2022. Abreu has been good for a -8.4 dWAR since his MLB debut and hasn’t really got any better (1st percentile in arm strength). He’s not exactly agile (20th percentile in sprint speed), either, which will affect the team’s baserunning/defensive alignments late in games.
There’s a lot of good here … but don’t get us wrong, it’s not a perfect signing. It’s a bit of an overpay and it’s purely a play for offense, which the Astros didn’t really need. Technically, they’ll get better than Gurriel’s -9 Outs Above Average figure (Abreu was a 0 in 2022), but with the shift being taken away, Abreu will have less help on the right side of the infield.
Astros fans can talk all they want about Abreu having better numbers against the Yankees than Gurriel, but he hit .172 with a .536 OPS against them last year. In 2021 he owned them, but the White Sox went 1-5 against New York, and most of Abreu’s damage came against Chad Green and Andrew Heaney. That’s not happening again.
Then again, it’s certainly not a bad idea for Crane to look at the splits and make a decision based off how well he’ll think Abreu will perform against the Yankees. Gotta tip the cap. But there’s a chance Abreu’s success vs the Bombers is either in the past or a bit inflated due to the regressing competition he faced at the time. If you’re worried about that, well, then maybe you’ll need to see a doctor about your paranoia.
And lastly, the Yankees should only be worried about their moves in any given offseason. If they get better, that’s all that matters. Being concerned with other teams getting better/worse and using that information to be reactive is the worst kind of offseason approach. It’s blown up in their faces many times before.
The Astros are the team to beat. They will be until further notice. It’s tough to swallow any upgrades they make because it signals a much more difficult journey ahead. But as long as the Yankees address their needs appropriately and shrewdly, that’s all anybody should be harping on (for better or worse).