Jose Abreu signs a 3-year free agent contract

The Astros swooped down on their “top priority” to meet their most pressing needs in the offseason.

Houston signed free agent Jose Abreu to a three-year contract Monday night, keeping the three-time All-Star and former MVP of the American League on the Astro through 2025.

The financial terms of the deal were not immediately known, but several people familiar with it said the expected value is around $60 million.

The Astros will introduce Abreu at a 10 a.m. press conference Tuesday alongside owner Jim Crane, who serves as the club’s de facto general manager after parting ways with James Click earlier this month.

Abreu spent the first nine seasons of his career with the Chicago White Sox, winning the 2014 MLS Player of the Year and MVP of the American League during the truncated 2020 season. He envisions himself as Houston’s everyday first baseman and hits the middle of a suddenly stretched lineup. One person in the organization on Monday called Abreu “our top priority” this winter.

Abreu gives the Astros a threatening right-handed bat up the middle, and pairs well with left-handed threats Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker. 506 percentage. He hit 30 home runs in five of his eight 162-game seasons.

Abreu’s career 134 OPS+ is 34 points higher than the league average. 368 on base percentage, a common theme during the injury-plagued White Sox season that led to the resignation of head coach Tony La Russa.

Abreu sacrificed some of his power last season, perhaps due to a lack of protection in Chicago’s lineup, but he’s still a perfect fit for Houston’s offensive, contact-centric approach. Although Abreu only hit 15 home runs last year, he finished the season hitting . 304 with a . 378 on-base percentage. Both were his highest numbers since 2014. Abreu also reduced his strike rate to 16.2 percent, the lowest in his career in nine years.

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The Houston Chronicle’s Chandler Rome discusses the Astros’ free agent priorities and the situation with Justin Verlander. Video: Houston Chronicle

Abreu’s lifetime strike rate is 19.8% — nearly two points below the major league average. He can be prone to being chased outside the strike zone but has a whiff rate in line with the league average.

Last season, Abreu had the lowest swing average of his career and the highest contact average. Only 10 of the eligible batters averaged an exit speed harder than Abreu’s 92.2mph. Of those ten, only two had higher batting averages: American League MVP Aaron Judge and Alvarez.

Abreu should now swing behind Alvarez in a batting order that looks a lot more intimidating than at any time last season. The decline of Yuli Juriel, Carousel’s midfield, and Jeremy Peña’s struggles in the second half left the Houston lineup without any length. Lift has masked the deficiency during the regular season. Peña composed the postseason break to cement his path to a World Series title assuming Peña could lag in playoff form, adding that Abreu would give the Astros one of the deepest lineups in the American League.

His addition almost certainly meant the end of Gurriel’s seven-year tenure as an everyday player. Gurriel is a free agent, and after winning the World Series, he says he hopes to reunite with the only organization he’s ever known.

During his career in Houston, Gurriel grew to become one of the club’s leaders and the cornerstone of the team’s six consecutive MLS championship appearances. The Infielders grew to rely on him for his remarkable scooping ability at first base, and his skills from bat to ball were outstanding. Gurriel earned a Gold Glove and won the batting title in 2021. The decline in both areas last season was too steep to ignore.

According to FanGraphs, Abreu was worth one defensive run saved at first base last season. Baseball Savant measured him at zero points above average. Gurriel posted negative numbers on both defensive measures. Houston could bring Gurriel back for a part-time or utility role next season, but it’s clear the club sought an offensive upgrade to play every day.

Enter Abreu.

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