There are multiple reports with Bob Nightengale being the first reporting that the Astros are indeed going to sign a 36- year old Cuban First Baseman.
That's not a typo. The Astros are getting YOUNGER at First Base signing Jose Abreu to a 3-yr $19.5M AAV deal.
Here is the YouTube
The Astros are apparently SAYING they are still interested in also signing Yuli Gurriel. I think that is largely spin to prevent any PR blowback.
I want to be clear. I did not include Abreu in my targets intentionally. I did NOT want a 36-yr old who is a marginal fielder. We have been living through that for the past three years, but let me be clear. Abreu is a much better hitter with MASSIVELY more power than Gurriel. My concern is how will this hold up in his age 36, 37, and 38 year old years. But let's do what we do and break down this deal from an analytical perspective.
First, I am going to give you a bunch of reasons to get excited.
Jose Abreu is one of the best of this generation with career totals that will make Astros fans giddy including the following:
Here is Abreu's career stat summary. Notice how stable and excellent it is
THE most impressive stat on this table for me though is the PT (Playing time) column. In his nine year career, Abreu has played in 94% of his games- NINETY-FOUR!
I have to amplify this point even more. Jose Abreu has appeared in 528 games in the past 4 seasons. This tied for FOURTH in all of the MLB. Altuve has been in 459 games and Bregman has been in 444 games.
Abreu destroys LHP
Imagine that Abreu batting in between Alvarez and Tucker. It isn't hard to do.
Jose Abreu hit 15 HRs in 2022 but that was impacted by playing in AL Central's big ballparks. If he had been an Astros 1B in 2022 stat cast expects he would have hit 22 HR. Mr. Abreu meet the Crawford Boxes. You two will become good friends.
Folks, there is absolutely a TON to like about what Abreu could do in this Astros lineup. We are balanced here so let's point out some potential challenge spots.
Abreu is not GREAT defensively BUT he was better last year than Yuli
DRS- Abreu +1 vs. Gurriel -2
OAA- Abreu 0 vs. Gurriel -9
Defensive WAR- Abreu -11.7 vs. Gurriel -16.3
The 2022 Iso number (0.141) down ~33% from 2021 (0.219) and career (0.215)- is this the early warning sign? Was something causing the power drop? Was it due to a lack of protection? Inquiring minds want to know.
The aging curve is undefeated. Will Abreu fall off as he ages? Yes, but his production is so much better than Gurriel's to start.
Let me address a few of the folks that are very bluntly saying this is a terrible deal for the Astros and point to signs of aging including numbers like closely related to the ISO number above.
Abreu may have changed his approach to spray the ball more to all fields. One can say that was needed because he could not catch up to the fastball as well as in the past as some have written
His spray chart looks more like those from earlier in his career. MAYBE he made a decision to be less pull happy.
Maybe he was adjusting to the shift and taking advantage of it
His xwOBA of 0.386 vs. four seam fastballs and his 94 MPH EV do not really look like one who fell off a productivity cliff.
his wOBA gap is really the issue (wOBA 0.336 vs. xwOBA 0.386)
his four seam fastball hard hit rate 57.7% is in line with many other years
yes these are things to monitor but it is way premature to label any of them a real concern
Overall, the tone of several of the naysayers and their willingness to mix in other issues into their analysis of this deal says more about their objectivity than it does this deal itself.
The last area of concern is financial. It would help if you reviewed the Payroll Armageddon article here.
I think the Astros overpaid here. However, WE don't know who was bidding against them and what the alternatives really were.
Let's talk about some potential payroll and roster ramifications.
I think the chances of re-signing Justin Verlander and/ or Yuli Gurriel dropped to near zero. That may not be a necessarily BAD thing. I don't buy Gurriel as a utility player. Here is why.
Innings by position - Gurriel 2020-2022
2B- 0 - ZERO
The last time Yuli played 3B - he had a UZR/150 of -20.9. He cannot play 3B or 2B except in an emergency. He does not have the range. This is what also makes him the poor fielding 1B he was in 2022.
The Astros would still benefit from another OF - we have discussed Brantley and Conforto here
IF the Astros DO NOT re-sign JV and they DO sign an OF at ~$13M AAV, there is still a ~$10M tax hit in 2025 unless this team dumps salaries before 2025. This also assumes Altuve and Bregman are extended/ resigned because I don't want to have to think about them not being Astros.
The Astros still should look at LHRP too as we described here.
I have seen others do this so let's build an Astros lineup with their projected 2023 Stats. Here is an option for what the lineup could be TODAY and what it could be with a LHH LF like Brantley.
How much does all of this matter anyway? Well let's use the Baseball Musings Lineup Analysis Tool to get an idea of the impact of signing Abreu and what signing Brantley could do.
The current projections for 2023 were for this offense to be better than last year (Matijevic significantly better than Gurriel and Maldy not as bad.). The help Abreu gives is significant.
Base 2023 Proj- Matijevic
2023 Proj w/ Abreu
2023 Proj w/ Abreu & Brantley
Signing Abreu projects to net 24 runs per season. I think it is more because I do not believe the projections for Matijevic. In case you aren't impressed with 24 runs by adding one batter, ask yourself is there a difference between a 90 RBI player and a 66 RBI player? There is.
Re-signing Brantley (or someone similar like Conforto) would net an additional 22 runs or 46 total runs for the two players.
Scoring 836 runs would have been the second highest in the league in 2022. This is BIG.
I said I did not believe the Abreu projections. I think that was too simplistic. After digging into this deeply, I actually like the deal IF (and this is the biggest issue) the Astros can keep Abreu healthy, productive, and in the lineup. Since he has been one of the most durable players for the past four years, perhaps my big concern is exaggerated.
Given the production the Astros have had from first base in 2022, this deal is a MASSIVE upgrade for 2023. It will likely be less and less of an upgrade in 2024 and 2025, but by then some other positions may be producing more (Pena, McCormick, and catchers all developing.)
I like this deal WAY more than I did earlier today. I hope this helps you too.
Before you go check out the Astros Off-Season Outline with links to everything.
Statistics from Fangraphs.com and BaseballSavant.com
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