Slugging Abreu joins Astros squad looking to repeat as champion
HOUSTON (AP) — Jose Abreu has spent his entire nine-year MLB career with the Chicago White Sox, but Astros owner Jim Crane isn’t worried about how the newly signed first baseman will fit in with his teammates in Houston.
“José pulled out his phone last night and had our entire team’s phone numbers,” Crane said with a laugh. “So I guess he knows some of the guys.”
Abreu was introduced to Houston on Tuesday after signing a three-year contract with the World Series champions, adding another power hitter to a roster full of them and filling the team’s biggest off-season need.
“I just want to be part of a big family,” Abreu said in Spanish through a translator. “Over the past six years, I think the Astros have created a great culture, a great family here and I want to be part of it and most importantly I want to win.”
He will take over at first base from Yuli Gurriel, the 2021 AL batting champion who has spent the past seven years with the team. Gurriel is a free agent, but could stay with the team in a utility role. Crane said Tuesday they were talking to his agent about a new contract.
Abreu had a good career with the White Sox, winning AL Rookie of the Year in 2014 and being selected AL MVP in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season when he appeared in all 60 games for Chicago. The 35-year-old is a three-time All-Star and has won three Silver Slugger Awards.
He hit 30 or more homers in five seasons and led the AL with 123 RBIs in 2019.
Since making his major league debut in 2014, Abreu leads the AL in total bases (2,509) and games played (1,270). He is second in hits (1,445) and RBIs (863) and ranks third in home runs (243).
Crane was thrilled to add Abreu to a batting order that includes Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and Kyle Tucker.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” Crane said. “He was a consistent player for several years. And you throw his bat into the lineup and with his stats he’s going to pop the lineup and that’s why we were attracted to him. Plus, he’s a top notch guy.
Abreu said the White Sox offered him a contract to stay, but ultimately he felt joining the Astros was a better move for him as he tried to add a championship to his resume.
“I come here to work and give my all,” he said. “I can’t do anything else.”
Abreu joins the Astros after hitting .304 with 15 homers, 75 RBIs and a career-high 62 walks in 2022. He was asked about ending with a career homer in 2022 after hitting 30 in 2021 and 19 in the shortened 2020 season. .
“I think I’ve spoiled people with all the circuits over the past few years,” Abreu said. “Obviously I used to turn 30 almost every year. I’m not saying it can’t happen again (so) I’m delighted to be at this stage and part of this family.
Both Abreu and Gurriel hail from Cuba and played against each other for years in the country’s domestic league before coming to America. He shared his feelings about his relationship with Gurriel and being in a position to replace him with the Astros.
“I have the utmost respect for Yuli,” Abreu said. “I’m just very grateful and understand that it’s part of the business and hopefully he can stay in the big leagues.”
The 2023 season will be Abreu’s 20th as a professional after starting his career in Cuba aged 16 and spending 10 seasons there with the Elefantes de Cienfuegos before signing with the White Sox in 2013.
Along with winning a title, he shared what he’s looking for in his transition to the Astros.
“I just don’t want to lose the hunger for baseball,” he said. “I think when I lose my hunger for baseball, that’s a day I’m just going to go home.”
The White Sox were disappointed to lose Abreu, and team president Jerry Reinsdorf called him one of the franchise’s all-time greats.
“I fervently hoped that Jose would never wear a uniform again, as I told him many times over the years,” Reinsdorf said in a statement. “Unfortunately, hope does not always translate into reality. Although we ended up in different places on the business side of the game, José and I always shared the same love of baseball. I am grateful to José for his friendship and the impact he has had on the White Sox franchise both on the field and in the community… his legacy is forever inscribed in the White Sox record books.
The White Sox won’t have much time to miss Abreu before seeing him again with the season-opening team against the Astros next year on March 30.
“It’s only normal that we face the White Sox on opening day,” Abreu said. “I’m just going to keep working all this time and give it my all.”
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