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May 26, 2024

Astros option José Abreu to rookie-level West Palm Beach

Astros option José Abreu to rookie-level West Palm Beach

HOUSTON — The Houston Astros will option struggling first baseman José Abreu to their spring training complex in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Wednesday, general manager Dana Brown announced Tuesday, prolonging the staggering collapse from the three-time All-Star and 2020 American League MVP.

Abreu, 37, is in the second year of a three-year, $58.5 million contract that makes it almost impossible for the Astros to cut ties with him so early in the season. He recorded just seven hits in his first 71 at-bats, struck out 18 times and  could no longer be used as an everyday player.

Both sides agreed to the decision after what Brown described as a “great” conversation with Abreu, members of the Astros’ coaching staff and the front office. Because Abreu has more than five years of major-league service time, he must give his consent before being optioned.

“José Abreu is an outstanding human being. He is unselfish and he’s a teammates’ guy and he wants to get himself back to what he was doing last fall,” Brown said. “ In the midst of  this conversation, you could see that this guy is passionate and determined to get back to helping this team. He unselfishly was on board and in agreement with going back to West Palm Beach.”

Brown did not offer a timetable for Abreu’s return to the major  leagues but intimated it would be an extended stay. Brown said he might fly down to Florida to monitor Abreu’s progress, along with senior adviser Jeff Bagwell and farm director Jacob Buffa.

“He was frustrated. He was wearing it,” Brown said. “If you’ve been around these athletes any number of years, you can tell when they’re frustrated. You take it home with you. Sometimes you think they don’t take it home with them, but they take it home with them. He got to the point where he was frustrated. It’s rare to do it, but it tells us about his dedication and commitment. I don’t think we see this as a long-term thing or he sees this as a long-term thing. I think it’s more like ‘Let’s go down, let’s make some adjustments, let’s get the rhythm and timing back.’”

Abreu did not report to Minute Maid Park on Tuesday and, thus, was unavailable for comment. Because the move is not official until Wednesday, Houston could not make a corresponding move and played Tuesday’s series opener  against the Cleveland Guardians a player short.

In an ESPN story published Tuesday morning, Abreu said in Spanish that he “felt embarrassed” about his paltry production since arriving in Houston. The contract he signed last winter was, at the time, the largest in Jim Crane’s ownership tenure.

In 163 games  since then, Abreu has slashed .221/.280/.352 and, according to Baseball-Reference, been worth negative-1.4 wins above replacement. A resurgence last September offered some hope that Abreu could engineer a similar turnaround this season.

Already 10 games below .500 and 6 1/2 games back in the American League West, the Astros could not afford to wait any longer. They entered Tuesday’s game against the Guardians with a .390 OPS from their first basemen. That Abreu became more prone to defensive blunders only made the Astros’ decision easier.

“It’s hard to watch a veteran player go through this,” Brown said. “When you watch him go through this and you know we need to get this guy fixed, it’s tough to get fixed at the major-league level. We can do a lot of different things on the minor-league level.”

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With José Abreu no longer an everyday player, what are the Astros’ plans for first base?
(Photo: Daniel Shirey / MLB Photos via Getty Images)

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