Signing José Abreu was one of the most underrated moves of the offseason
The Houston Astros won 106 games in the 2022 season, capping it off with a sixth straight ALCS trip, a fourth American League pennant and a second World Series championship.
They managed to do so with their first basemen combining to hit .236 with a .656 OPS and a 77OPS+. Their primary starter, Yuli Gurriel, was good for -0.3 bWAR. How did Houston address this weak spot this offseason? Only by landing the 2020 AL MVP, José Abreu, and his .304 average, .824 OPS, 133 OPS+ and his 4.2 bWAR. That is an indescribably large upgrade.
How often does the reigning champ make an upgrade of this caliber? They addressed a massive area of need that improves an already lethal lineup and actually fits in quite well with Houston's elite defense.
And yet, it's gotten very little attention. The talk of the offseason have been moves like the Yankees re-signing Aaron Judge, the Carlos Correa free agency extravaganza and many of the mega-deals given out to the elite class of shortstops.
The Athletic (subscription required) recently analyzed each team's most underrated move of the offseason. Stephen J. Nesbitt had this to say of the Astros landing Abreu:
"If we’re talking truly under-the-radar moves, bringing back right-hander Rafael Montero bolsters the Astros bullpen, but let’s sneak onto the radar slightly to spotlight a signing that deserved more national attention this offseason: first baseman José Abreu. Abreu, the 2020 AL MVP in Chicago, is a premium run-producer at a position where the Astros previously had a far more contact-oriented hitter in Yuli Gurriel. Abreu, 36, provides another fearsome bat in the heart of a lineup that already is one of the most dangerous in baseball. Pitch around Yordan Álvarez? Face Abreu. Pitch around Abreu? Face Kyle Tucker. Yeesh."- Stephen J. Nesbitt
This is so spot on. The Astros had a top five-to-seven lineup in the MLB last year. They could score runs in bunches on the backs of Alvarez, Altuve, Bregman and Tucker, but definitely had some weak spots in the lineup.
Now they can insert a bat that via Statcast finished in the 98th percentile of xBA, 97th percentile of hard hit rate, 96th percentile of xwOBA, 93rd percentile in average exit velocity, 92nd percentile in xSLG and 61st percentile in walk rate. With Michael Brantley back and the continued rise of Jeremy Peña, the Astros now have a top-seven in the lineup as overwhelming as any team in the game.
The Astros added an elite bat worth four wins and almost nobody has discussed it. The move may have been mostly overlooked, but one thing that won't be is the Astros lineup when they run roughshod across the leageu again in 2023.