Cuban slugger Jose Abreu was recently declared a Free Agent and immediately vaulted toward the top of the list of offensive weapons available this offseason. Today, ESPN’s Buster Olney listed the Astros as one of the frontrunners to acquire Abreu’s services. This news comes as somewhat of a surprise, given the Astros current state of rebuild.
Abreu, 27, is younger than any of the MLB Free Agents on the market and that should help him to land a long term deal. He is said to be seeking a 6-year deal in the neighborhood of $54 to $70 million. I would truly be surprised to see Jim Crane throw that much money at any player this offseason. Even if the Astros are interested, it would be unlikely that they would outbid the Rangers for Abreu. Perhaps this is merely a ploy to drive up the price.
Abreu is considered by most scouts to be a more polished hitter than recent Cuban imports Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig. However, hitting just might be Abreu’s only attribute. Unlike his aforementioned countrymen, Abreu is not a threat on the basepaths and designated hitter is probably his best position. He has primarily played first base in Cuba and the lack of star power at that position in this year’s Free Agent class should also benefit Abreu monetarily.
Abreu won the MVP Award for the Cuban National Series League for the 2010-2011 season despite missing 23 games with a shoulder injury. It was the second straight season in which he had put up incredible numbers and flirted with the triple crown. More recently, Abreu went 9 for 25 (.360) with three homers in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
Abreu has been seen by a ton of scouts and they all agree that the power is there. Some, however, have concerns that his bat speed may only be average and that his tendency to chase sliders out of the strike zone could be a problem at the major league level.
Are the Astros ready to take a $70 million gamble on a player like Abreu? I doubt it. But, you never know. The budget conscious Oakland Athletics surprised everyone when they signed Cespedes two years ago. One team that Olney didn’t mention that is also rumored to be “all in” on Abreu is the Miami Marlins. If I had to venture a guess, I would say South Beach seems like a more likely landing spot for the Free Agent.