1B Abreu is thrilled to “be part of this family” and joins Astros

HOUSTON — 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 Houston teammates.

“Jose pulled out his cell phone last night and had our entire team’s phone numbers,” Crane said, laughing. “Well, I guess he knows some of the guys.”

Abreu was unveiled in Houston Tuesday after signing a three-year deal with the World Series champion, adding another heavy hitter to a lineup full of them and filling the team’s greatest offseason need.

“I just want to be part of a great family,” Abreu said in Spanish through a translator. “I think the Astros have created a great culture and a great family here over the last six years and I want to be a part of that and more importantly I want to win.”

He takes over first base for Yuli Gurriel, the 2021 AL batting champion who has spent the last seven years with the team. Gurriel is a free agent but could remain with the team in a utility role. Crane said Tuesday they are in talks with his agent about a new contract.

Abreu had a fine career with the White Sox, winning the 2014 AL Rookie of the Year and being named AL MVP in the 2020 season shortened by the pandemic, 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 has hit 30 or more homers in five seasons and led the 2019 AL with 123 RBIs.

Since making his major league debut in 2014, Abreu has led the AL in total bases (2,509) and games played (1,270). He is second for hits (1,445) and RBIs (863) and third for home runs (243).

Crane gushed about adding Abreu to a batting order that includes Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and Kyle Tucker.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” said Crane. “He has been a consistent player for a number of years. And you throw his racquet in the lineup and with his stats he’s going to add some pop to the lineup and that’s why we were attracted to him. Besides, he’s a top-notch guy.”

Abreu said the White Sox offered him a contract to stay, but in the end he believed joining the Astros was a better decision for him as he tries to add a championship to his resume.

“I just come here to work and give it my all,” he said. “I can’t do anything else.”

Abreu joins the Astros after hitting .304 in 2022 with 15 homers, 75 RBIs and a career-high 62 walks. He was asked if he would finish 2022 with a career low in home runs after hitting 30 in 2021 and 19 in the shortened 2020 season.

“I think I’ve spoiled people with all the home runs over the past few years,” Abreu said. “Obviously I hit 30 almost every year. I’m not saying it can’t happen again (so) I’m looking forward to being in this stadium and being part of this family.”

Abreu and Gurriel are both from Cuba and played each other in the country’s national league for years before coming to America. He shared his feelings about his relationship with Gurriel and that he was in a position to replace him with the Astros.

“I have the utmost respect for Yuli,” Abreu said. “I’m just really grateful and I understand that’s part of the deal and hopefully he can stay in the big leagues.”

The 2023 season will be Abreus’ 20th as a pro, having started his career in Cuba at the age of 16 and spending ten seasons there with the Elefantes de Cienfuegos before signing with the White Sox in 2013.

Aside from winning a title, he shared what he’s looking for in his transition to the Astros.

“I just don’t want to lose my baseball hunger,” he said. “I think if I lose my baseball hunger, that’s a day I’ll just go home.”

The White Sox were disappointed to lose Abreu, and team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf called him one of the franchise’s all-time greats.

“It was my fervent hope that Jose would never wear any other uniform again, as I have told him many times over the years,” Reinsdorf said in a statement. “Unfortunately, hope doesn’t always translate into reality. While we’ve landed in different places on the business side of the game, Jose and I have always shared the same love of baseball. I am grateful to Jose for his friendship and the impact he made both on the field and in the community for the White Sox franchise…his legacy is forever written in the White Sox record books.

The White Sox won’t have much time to miss Abreu before they next see him with the team, which opens the season on March 30 against the Astros.

“It’s only fitting that we play the White Sox on opening day,” Abreu said. “I’ll just keep working all the time and just give it my all.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *