One big deal down, now the Astros are eyeing more talent for 2023 team

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - OCTOBER 12: Jose Abreu #79 of the Chicago White Sox talks with Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros during a pitching change at Guaranteed Rate Field on October 12, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. The Astros defeated the White Sox 10-1. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) (Jonathan Daniel, 2021 Getty Images)

Hey guys, it’s Ari Alexander checking in with the Astros on the eve of the 2022 Winter Meetings in San Diego. The Astros have already made one huge splash this week and owner Jim Crane says he’s not done.


The Astros introduced new first baseman José Abreu in a Tuesday press conference, signing the 2020 AL MVP to a 3-year, $58.5 million deal. Abreu is a career 134 OPS+ hitter (34% better than league average) and hit for a 133 OPS+ in 2022.

He’s going to be a significant part of the Astros lineup, and lengthens the lineup in a scary way. Houston’s 1-7 will look something like: ALTUVE/PENA/BREGMAN/ALVAREZ/ABREU/TUCKER/MCCORMICK, which matches up with any team in baseball.

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Abreu will play the 2023 season at Age 36, coming to MLB in 2014 in his prime at age 27 after one of the most dominant 3-year runs in Cuban National Series history. Abreu is basically a folk hero in Cuba (much like Yuli Gurriel) and has now won MVP in both the CNS and MLB.


Owner Jim Crane mentioned the Astros are still looking at catching, an outfielder and potentially some depth in the pitching staff. Targets that have been mentioned include catcher Willson Contreras, who the Athletic reports the Astros will meet with in San Diego.

Another target - Cody Bellinger, one of Houston’s most hated players due to his comments about the Astros cheating scandal. Bellinger is coming off two awful seasons at the plate, but is still a plus-defender in the outfield and at 1st base. Sports agent Scott Boras has said he wants a 1-year deal for Bellinger to re-set his market. The 2019 NL MVP had shoulder surgery after the 2020 season, that his camp has said diminished his hitting ability. Bellinger was non-tendered for a $18-19 million deal, and should command somewhere in the $14-17 million range with potential incentives. Houston is said to be one of 11 teams interested in Bellinger.


Justin Verlander will command at least $40 million per year, which would put the Astros into the luxury tax. Jim Crane said Tuesday Houston has the resources to afford, but were hesitant to go into the tax the past few seasons.

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - SEPTEMBER 22: Starting pitcher Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros works the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 22, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) (2022 Getty Images)

Yuli Gurriel will no longer have a full-time role with the signing of Jose Abreu. Gurriel could command somewhere in the $6-8 million range for a fulltime role, and there’s a chance he comes back to Houston as a bench bat or utility player, but it seems slim.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 23: Yuli Gurriel #10 of the Houston Astros celebrates his RBI single in the third inning against the New York Yankees in game four of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 23, 2022 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) (2022 Getty Images)

Jim Crane said Tuesday he hasn’t spoken to Verlander recently. I asked Crane about involvement with Gurriel, and he told me he’s reached out to his agent, but no more than that. Both seem like long shots to stay in Houston, and the Astros have different needs than the talents those two players present. Of course, Jim Crane could just spend whatever is needed, and sign both of them.


Winter meetings! From December 4-7, all 30 teams and players and agents will converge in San Diego for discussions and deals. We’ll keep you posted on any big developments.

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Murrow and Emmy award-winning sports anchor & reporter. Avid traveler, mediocre golfer. Loves good food, good friends and southern rap.