HomeMLB RumorsAstros Notes: Abreu, Garcia, Tucker

Astros Notes: Abreu, Garcia, Tucker

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Although prior indications were that Jose Abreu could return to the Astros for this Friday’s series opener against the A’s, it seems his optional assignment in the minors will last at least a bit longer. Manager Joe Espada told the Astros beat today that Abreu will play games with the organization’s Arizona Complex League affiliate today and tomorrow before heading to Triple-A Sugar Land on Friday (X link via Brian McTaggart of MLB.com). A return later in the weekend series hasn’t been ruled out, but the team isn’t formally committing to a timeline at this point.

Abreu, 37, rather surprisingly agreed to an optional assignment earlier this year after enduring the worst stretch of his major league career. The former AL MVP opened the season mired in a calamitous slump, hitting just .099/.156/.113 in 77 plate appearances. He’s currently 6-for-18 with a pair of doubles, a walk and two strikeouts — albeit against Rookie-level competition. Any sign of life from Abreu is an encouraging step, given his awful start to the season, however. It seems he’ll get at least a game or two against more advanced Triple-A competition after that confidence booster and mental reset in the ACL.

Abreu is in the second season of a three-year, $58.5MM free agent contract signed when the Astros were operating without a general manager in place. Owner Jim Crane largely oversaw baseball operations between the surprise ouster of former GM James Click and the hiring of current general manager Dana Brown. That contract gives the club plenty of incentive to try to get Abreu back on track, difficult as his time with the organization has been thus far. Since putting pen to paper, Abreu has mustered only a .221/.280/.352 batting line in 671 plate appearances.

In Abreu’s absence, Jon Singleton has taken up the everyday first base job. He’s turned in a .224/.346/.448 slash in 81 plate appearances with Abreu off the roster, though much of his damage came in the first few games following Abreu’s demotion. Singleton homered last night, but that was his first extra-base hit in nearly two weeks. Between Singleton and Abreu, Houston first basemen have posted a combined .170/.260/.275 line on the season.

Woeful first base production has been just one of many issues for a disappointing Houston club. The Astros’ injury-plagued starting staff has seen major regression from Hunter Brown and J.P. France while rookie Spencer Arrighetti has struggled in his debut campaign. Righty Ronel Blanco is in the midst of a breakout, but stalwart lefty Framber Valdez has been inconsistent. Each of Valdez, Justin Verlander and Cristian Javier has spent time on the injured list already this season.

The Astros are awaiting the eventual returns of notable arms like Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers Jr., both of whom opened the year on the injured list while rehabbing from major surgeries. Garcia took a notable step in his recovery this week, throwing off the mound at Minute Maid Park, tweets Matt Kawahara of the Houston Chronicle.

The 27-year-old Garcia underwent Tommy John surgery early last May, so he’s now past the one-year mark in his recovery. He’ll still need to face hitters in live batting practice/simulated games before heading out on a minor league rehab assignment, so a return isn’t nigh just yet. At the same time, it’s encouraging that he’s progressed to mound work and has yet to incur any sort of setback. In 352 innings from 2020-23, Garcia pitched to a 3.61 ERA with a 25.3% strikeout rate and 7.8% walk rate.

Even as the Astros navigate these shorter-term issues, there are still big-picture items to consider. Brown has said countless times since being hired that he hopes to extend outfielder Kyle Tucker and keep the former No. 5 overall pick in Houston for his entire career. He did so again today, appearing on the Sean Salisbury Show on SportsTalk 790 and stating (X links via 790’s Brian LaLima):

“Currently, not talking extension. We love Kyle Tucker. We have him under contract til 2025. I talked to his agent during spring training but right now we aren’t in discussion. We’d love him to retire here if possible. He knows we want to sign him here and his agent knows we want to sign him here. At some point, we’ll get an offer to him.”

At this point, Astros fans surely take such quotes with a grain of salt. The Astros quickly extended the aforementioned Javier after Brown was hired and have since hammered out a new long-term deal with Jose Altuve, but Brown has routinely made public comments about his desire to extend Tucker, Alex Bregman, Valdez and others without talks ever appearing to gain real steam. That he’s suggesting the team “will get an offer” to Tucker “at some point” seems a clear indicator that there haven’t yet been serious negotiations. Given Tucker’s increasing proximity to free agency and his ascension to bona fide MVP candidate, it’s tough to envision a deal coming together.

Tucker, 27, was already an excellent hitter from 2021-23, but this year’s offensive output is on a whole new level. In 215 trips to the plate, he’s slashing .293/.425/.649 — a mammoth 101% better than the average hitter, by measure of wRC+. Tucker has already belted 17 home runs (one every 12.6 plate appearances) and has walked more than he’s struck out (18.6% to 16.7%).

That level of production, coupled with the fact that Tucker will reach the open market heading into his age-29 season, should position him for the type of long-term megadeal from which Crane has shied away. The Astros haven’t given out a contract longer than Yordan Alvarez’s six-year, $115MM extension under Crane’s ownership, and the $151MM in new money that was guaranteed to Altuve on the second of his three Astros extensions is the largest sum Crane has committed at once. Tucker could realistically double that sum (and then some) in free agency.


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