MLB insider suggests Jim Crane's erratic free agency influence got Astros into a big mess

Is the Astros' owner letting his personal feelings get in the way?
Houston Astros owner Jim Crane
Houston Astros owner Jim Crane / Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
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The Houston Astros finally admitted a gargantuan mistake that will cost them upwards of $30 million when they parted ways with Jose Abreu after the former AL MVP put up unsustainable numbers during his second season in Space City.

Abreu, who inked a three-year, $58.5 million contract prior to the 2023 season, hit just .124/.167/.195 with the Astros this season before being released last week. Houston is still on the hook for Abreu's remaining salary.

Astros owner Jim Crane was known to be enamored with Abreu even before the three-time All-Star defected from Cuba and signed with the Chicago White Sox. Was Crane's obsession with righting a wrong the reason Houston is in such a mess?

Jim Crane's foolish pursuit of Jose Abreu and others may have landed the Astros in a mess

According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription required), the Astros were second in the pursuit of signing initially Abreu out of Cuba. Houston reportedly fell about $4 million short of the six-year, $68 million contract Abreu signed with Chicago.

As Rosenthal goes on to discuss, it's not uncommon for owners to circle back to once highly-sought after players once they become available in either a trade or free agency. Rosenthal notes that Crane did not reply to a request as to whether or not the Astros' pursuit of Abreu following the 2022 season was a result of their first failed attempt.

The Astros were rumored to be in the hunt for both Blake Snell and Josh Hader at last year's trade deadline. While the Astros failed to acquire either player from the San Diego Padres last July, Houston ultimately added Hader to their bullpen this past offseason and were rumored to be in talks with Snell at various points throughout the winter. This would seem to add credence to Rosenthal's hypothesis.

Jim Crane needs to let Astros GM Dana Brown run the team

Sometimes, owners stick their noses into the business of front office executives. When that occurs, it can cause a power struggle — which will almost always be won by ownership (it's their money). But when the player struggles as mightily as Abreu did, the team's front office is left to clean up the mess.

The Astros did everything they could in an attempt to resurrect Abreu's failed tenure in Houston. A tuneup in the minors and extended stay on the big league despite his horrible output were not enough to keep him on the Astros roster.

One has to wonder, with the MLB trade deadline approaching, how much influence Crane (along with advisor Jeff Bagwell who has added to the chaos in the front office) will have over which players the Astros pursue, or perhaps more importantly, who Houston decides to let go.

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