First baseman and unfulfilling slugger Jose Abreu, the Astros big offseason signing for 2023, is having the worst – by far – year of his career, hitting a paltry .220 with only 17 RBI and absolute zero home runs.
Abreu should consider himself lucky.
Lucky he’s not playing for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Trea Turner, the Phillies lusty $300 million free agent signing for 2023, is hitting .256 with four homers – and he’s getting boo’d out Citizens Bank Park on a nightly basis.
Sample headline from the City of Brotherly Love: “Boos rain down on Turner.”
So far, Astros fans haven’t turned on Abreu. Astros fans are nice. But are they too nice? And how much longer before Abreu – if not already – is hurting the Astros’ chances of repeating as World Series champs? The season is approaching a third-over and Abreu hasn’t cleared the fences one time. It’s not like he’s a slick-fielding first baseman, either.
Abreu has been so disappointing at the plate that the media is stirring up manufactured rumors that the Astros may be interested in signing Eric Hosmer, the first sacker recently released by the Cubs.
I was talking to a baseball insider the other day. I told him how Philly fans are merciless toward Turner, but Astros fans look the other way on Abreu. It’s just the way we are.
The insider told me, “Here’s the difference. If the Phillies decided, for whatever reason, to trade Turner, several teams would be calling them. If the Astros offered up Abreu in a trade, the Astros phone wouldn’t ring. Signing Abreu was a big mistake and the Astros are stuck with his contract for two more years after this.”
Despite his anemic hitting, manager Dusty Baker keeps rolling Abreu out there every game, hitting in a power slot in the lineup despite his .260 slugging percentage and .281 on base percentage. It’s like the only time Abreu sees first base is when the Astros take the field. It feels like the Astros and Abreu are stuck in a bad marriage and they’re only staying together for the children – Sunday is “Kids Run the Bases” day.
Maybe Astros fans’ reaction to Abreu would be different if the team weren’t succeeding without any contribution from their early season cleanup hitter.
The Astros are the hottest team in baseball, riding an 8-game win streak, 10 of their last 11, on the verge of overtaking those seat-filler Rangers for first place in the American League West. The Astros have two more games against the Brewers before heading to Oakland for a weekend series against the lowly A’s.
And I do mean lowly. Historically lowly. The A’s are 10-39 for a .204 winning percentage and if they keep this up, they’ll finish with the worst record in MLB since 1900. The current mark for futility is held by the 1916 Philadelphia A’s (same franchise, just different crime scene in Oakland), who finished 36-117 for a .236 winning percentage.
The current A’s are on pace to obliterate that mark. The A’s just need to stay focused to get that record. We don’t know if A’s fans are booing the team. There’s not enough fans at their games to register a peep.
So maybe the Abreu contract, $58.5 million over three years, turns out to be a bum deal for the Astros. But sometimes the best deals are the ones you don’t make. Like the Astros not making a serious bid to match the Mets’ two-year, $86 million offer for Justin Verlander. That’s a fortune saved.
JV, 40 and coming off another visit to the injured list, is 2-2 with a 3.60 earned run average for the Metropolitans. Meanwhile, his departure from Houston opened the door for rookie Hunter Brown to join the Astros starting rotation.
Brown, only 24, is 4-1 with a 3.20 earned run average. Brown has started nine games this season. The Astros are 6-3 in his starts.
Brown is making $725,000 this year. If my math is correct, that’s 59 times less than Verlander. That should ease the pain of the Abreu deal. A little, anyway.