Despite a prolific offense in 2017, the Astros could bolster it even further if they so desired.
Thanks to a FanRag Sports Network article from Paul Lebowitz, the Astros were listed as a hypothetical trade destination for White Sox slugger Jose Abreu. Yes, the Houston lineup could, in theory, become more of a juggernaut than ever before if a trade like this ever came to pass.
That’s a scary hypothetical if you are another pitching staff not named the Astros.
At first glance, this proposed trade destination for Abreu does make sense for Houston. After all, the team would benefit from adding a batter that just posted an 138 wRC+ in 675 plate appearances. Just imagine Abreu hitting behind Carlos Correa and ahead of Yuli Gurriel? Opposing pitchers would have nightmares about Houston’s lineup.
So would the baseball. Those poor, poor “juiced” baseballs.
Per Fangraphs 2017 leaderboards, Abreu was the 19th-best batter in baseball based on wRC+. That’s only one spot below Astros’ center fielder George Springer. Abreu also had the 24th-best isolated power – ISO – in baseball at .248. This essentially means he gets a lot of extra base hits. He also happened to tie Mike Trout in home runs – 33 – and in a four-way tie for seventh place in doubles – 43 – for the season. This included Daniel Murphy, Nolan Arenado and the Astros’ own Gurriel. He also finished with six triples. Now, that, I can’t explain. At least yet.
Anytime there’s a batter that can tie the likes of Trout, Murphy and Arenado in various offensive categories, well, you have to pay attention. Combine Abreu’s propensity for terrific offense in this Houston lineup, it’s very well possible that they could exceed their 2017 heights.
My apologies to the fans of Evan Gattis, but you non-tender him if you acquire a player like Abreu. Abreu could switch between first base and designated hitter with Gurriel and Marwin Gonzalez. With another backup catcher likely in the fold next season, Gattis would unfortunately have to be moved.
If a trade like this actually transpired, Abreu would then actually play for a contender.
The White Sox are rebuilding and Abreu will likely be long gone by the time the team is competitive once again. And he’s no spring chicken. The slugger will be 31-years old by the start of next season. For his and the White Sox sake, a trade to another team would arguably be in the best interest of both parties.
Alas, let me state that I do not foresee the Astros acquiring the first baseman/designated hitter from the south side of Chicago. Don’t take that opinion to heart though as I very well could be wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time.
One reason for my pessimism is the other needs surrounding the Astros.
The team’s bullpen won’t be overhauled, but another reliever or two would go a long way. That’s going to cost money. You could even make the argument for another starting pitcher. Left field could be a priority. Then there is the long-term contracts that Houston’s front office could negotiate with their young core. While the length of commitment to Abreu isn’t an issue, the short-term price may be a road block.
Plus, there are other teams more desperate for offense than Houston. In turn, the prospects offered to a rebuilding White Sox franchise may be sweeter than a hypothetical Astros’ offer. And the likes of Eric Hosmer, Carlos Santana and J.D. Martinez won’t come cheap. The teams that are spurned by free agency could turn their attention to Abreu, who made only $10.8 million in 2017. He’s scheduled a raise in arbitration but I do not expect his annual price to rise dramatically. He will likely be cheaper than other options on the open market. Then Abreu has the two years of team control remaining through 2019. Organizations value that kind of control despite the arbitration variables.
That said, an Abreu-Astros pairing would be fun to watch. This was a fun hypothetical to discuss. Ironically, Houston fell short a few years ago in their pursuit of Abreu. ANd while his batted ball profile isn’t as sexy as the Giancarlo Stanton hypothetical in Minute Maid Park, you can’t help but wonder the damage Abreu could do in Houston.
**Statistics and information courtesy of Fangraphs and Spotrac**