Houston faces stiff competition for Jose Abreu

Astros face stiff competition for Jose Abreu on the free agent market.

With Yuli Gurriel hitting free agency, the Houston Astros have a gaping hole at first base in their lineup.

As things currently stand, the club would begin 2023 with two unproven players splitting time at the position in J.J. Matijevic and catcher Yainer Díaz.

Of course, a club looking to build off of its 2022 World Series winning campaign will need to find better production at first base than that.

Houston has been rumored to be in serious pursuit of 2020 AL MVP José Abreu to join their already lethal lineup.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic mentioned in a recent column that the San Diego Padres are also pursuing Abreu’s services on the free agent market. To further muddy the waters, Abreu himself seems to be intrigued by the possibility of playing for one of MLB’s two Florida teams.

MLB rumors: Jose Abreu to Astros is no sure thing

Abreu, 35, is from Cuba and owns a home in Florida just south of Miami. As Rosenthal points out, both the Rays and Marlins are two of the game’s most conservative spenders, so a fit is not guaranteed with either club.

Abreu certainly did his part in 2022 to secure what could be a multi-year deal in free agency. In 157 games, the premier slugger hit 15 home runs (a low number by his standards) but still managed a .304 batting average and an OPS+ of 133.

In each of the past two seasons, Abreu has managed a walk rate over 9%, easily the best of his career. This past season, he struck out in just 16% of his plate appearances, showing that even if his power numbers dipped a bit, he has still proven to be one of the game’s most valuable first basemen.

FanGraphs Roster Resource has Garrett Cooper penciled in at first for the Marlins in the upcoming campaign. Cooper, 31, was worth just one bWAR last season, hitting just nine home runs and striking out in 25% of his plate appearances.

For the Rays, the closer team to contention between the two Florida clubs, utilityman Jonathan Aranda is penciled in as the starting first baseman, with Christian Bethancourt and Isaac Paredes also on hand.

With Houston owning the deepest pockets amongst the parties interested in Abreu, it may be difficult for either Miami or Tampa Bay to pry him away from a club nearly guaranteed to be World Series contenders for years to come.

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