José Abreu is officially a member of the Houston Astros.
The reigning World Series champions introduced the former White Sox first baseman in a press conference on Tuesday morning. Abreu donned his signature No. 79, becoming the first player to do so in Houston’s team history.
“I think it’s simple,” Abreu explained through an interpreter on why he chose Houston. “I think I just want to be part of a great family. In the last six years, I think the Houston Astros have created a great culture, great family here, and I want to be part of that. And also, most importantly, I want to win.”
When asked about his time with the White Sox and whether the team attempted to re-sign him, Abreu was candid.
“I think my biggest takeaway from my experience with the White Sox is that I tried to give my respect to everybody that was there,” Abreu said. “My teammates, owner, everybody that was in the organization. I think that was the biggest thing that my grandfather taught me. Just respect everyone as equal.”
“The White Sox did make me an offer,” he continued via an interpreter. “It was a really good offer, but I think we’ll leave it there. I think God knows why he does what he does so we’re here.”
For Astros Owner and Chairman Jim Crane, targeting Abreu was a no-brainer.
“Well, I mean, the numbers speak for themselves,” said Crane. “He’s been a consistent player for a number of years. You throw his bat in the lineup and his statistics … he’s going to put some pop in the lineup. That’s why we were attracted to him, plus he’s a first-rate guy. We got to spend a little time together last night and I know from that meeting and from all the other folks that know José well, he’ll be a great fit in the clubhouse.”
Even Astros legendary first baseman Jeff Bagwell played a role in negotiating the deal, sharing that Abreu was a priority for the team.
“He was our number one target,” Bagwell shared. “He made the most sense for our ballclub. People can look around, you know, obviously, there’s Aaron Judge and things like that. A whole bunch of starting pitchers, some shortstops, but what we needed was José Abreu.”
Heading into his age-36 season, Abreu will play his first for a team other than the White Sox. During his nine-year tenure on the South Side, Abreu was named an American League MVP, a three-time All-Star, and a three-time Silver Slugger Award recipient. After battling injuries throughout 2022, Abreu saw his power numbers dip but still turned in a quality season overall. In 157 games played, the 35-year-old hit .304/.378/.446 with 15 home runs, 75 RBI, and a .824 OPS, good for a 137 wRC+, 4.2 bWAR, and 3.9 fWAR.
In a press conference with the White Sox before the season’s end, Abreu expressed his desire to continue playing and showed an interest in returning to Chicago. However, he said that there had not been any talks with the front office and that he would take the offseason to rest and think about what comes next. This was a far cry from when he said he would “sign himself” prior to his free agency in 2019.
An irreplaceable leader and staple of production in the White Sox lineup, the Cuban batted .292/.354/.506 (1445-for-4954) overall with 243 home runs, 863 RBI, 697 runs, and a .860 OPS. Since his debut in 2014, Abreu leads the American League in total bases (2,509), and games played (1,270). He’s also second in hits (1,445) and RBI (863) and third in home runs (243). Additionally, he’s played in 152 or more games in six of his eight full seasons in the majors, along with all 60 games in the COVID-shortened 2020 season.
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn admitted last month that a potential re-signing of Abreu would have “a ripple effect” on the rest of the roster, as the club appears ready to move Andrew Vaughn to first base to be their next long-term answer there. For Abreu, he will likely thrive with the short Crawford Boxes in left field for the Astros and will replace the aging Yuli Gurriel on the World Champion roster.
Ironically, the White Sox will open with a three-game series in Houston beginning on March 30. The Astros will return to Chicago for another three-game set from May 12-14.
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