Astros option former MVP José Abreu to minors amid .099 start at the plate

The Houston Astros have optioned former AL MVP José Abreu to the minor leagues to work on his swing amid a .099 start at the plate.

General manager Dana Brown announced the news to reporters on Tuesday, noting that the decision was mutual between Abreu the team. Abreu will join Houston’s Florida Complex League affiliate in West Palm Beach.

“We need to get some production out of first base,” Brown said. “We’ll do whatever we have to do. We have guys on the roster who have played first base before.”

Brown acknowledged that the move to send a former MVP to the minor leagues is “a rare thing” and commended Abreu for being willing to make the move.

“It tells you that much more about the human being that he was frustrated. He was wearing it. If you’ve been around these athletes any number of years, you can tell when they’re frustrated. … You take it home with you.

“It’s rare to do it. But I think it tells us about his dedication and commitment.”

Brown also noted that the team and Abreu are both hoping that the move is not long-term.

“I don’t think he sees this as a long-term and I don’t think we see it as a long-term thing. I think it’s more like ‘you know what; let’s go down, let’s make some adjustments, let’s get the rhythm and timing back.

“I think in his eyes, he’s looking at it as ‘I’ll be back in a couple weeks or whatever it takes to get better.”

Jose Abreu has struggled at the plate since joining the Astros in 2023. (Jerome Miron/Reuters)Jose Abreu has struggled at the plate since joining the Astros in 2023. (Jerome Miron/Reuters)

Jose Abreu has struggled at the plate since joining the Astros in 2023. (Jerome Miron/Reuters)

Abreu, 37, is in his second season with the Astros. He joined the team as a free agent in 2022 on a three-year, $58.5 million contract. He spent his previous nine MLB seasons with the Chicago White Sox, where he was a three-time All-Star. He won AL MVP in the 2020 COVID-19 shortened season while leading the league in hits, RBI, slugging percentage and total bases. He was also the AL RBI champ in 2019.

Abreu struggled in his first season in Houston with a career-low .237/.296/.383 slash line. Those struggles have been exacerbated in 2024 as he’s off to a .099/.156/.113 start at the plate. He has seven hits and 18 strikeouts in 77 plate appearances. He acknowledged his struggles in an ESPN story published on Tuesday.

“You know what’s been the hardest thing for me? And I say this from the bottom of my heart — I feel embarrassed,” Abreu said in Spanish, via translation. “The people in this organization brought me here to do a good job. I haven’t done that.

The hard thing, too, is that my teammates see that I haven’t done my job, although they’ve always supported me, always been by my side. But I won’t stay down.”

The Astros, meanwhile, are off to a 9-19 start and sit in last place in the AL West after seven straight seasons of playoff appearances including two World Series championships. Houston’s in its first season with rookie manage Joe Espada. He was previously bench coach under manager Dusty Baker, who retired in October.

Backup Jon Singleton was in Houston’s lineup at first base for Tuesday’s game against the Cleveland Guardians and has previously been in the lineup in spot starts amid Abreu’s struggles. Brown told reporters that Espada will “piece it together” in terms of building a lineup moving forward without Abreu.

“There are certainly some guys in here that can play first base.”

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