Houston shows interest in former MVP

The Houston Astros are the defending champions entering the 2023 season, but it seems as though team owner Jim Crane isn’t satisfied with the current roster just yet.

Houston has been rumored to be targeting lineup upgrades ahead of next season, with a move at first base seeming increasingly likely. The Astros platooned veteran Yuli Gurriel and 2022 acquisition Trey Mancini at first base last season, although both are now free agents after a pair of subpar seasons at the plate.

So, who will Houston turn to on the right side of its infield next season? Perhaps another Cuban slugger could come aboard.

The Astros have “continued interest” in signing free agent first baseman José Abreu, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. Abreu will turn 36 next season, and he hit a career-low 15 home runs last season. But a deeper look at the numbers suggest the 2020 AL MVP still has plenty left in the tank. Abreu posted a 133 OPS+ last season, and his .378 OBP was his best mark since 2014. Pencil Abreu into the heart of Houston’s order, and the RBI are sure to follow.

Adding a first baseman isn’t the only priority for Houston this offseason. The Astros could lose the anchor of their rotation in free agency, as Justin Verlander is in discussions with other clubs after declining his $25 million player option for 2023.

Verlander was wise not to opt in to his 2023 contract. He was the unanimous Cy Young in his age-39 season, a year in which he led the American League with a 1.75 ERA. Verlander is now set to cash in with a multi-year deal, one that may outstretch what Houston is willing to spend.

The Astros will enter 2023 as the likely favorite in the American League, but don’t be surprised if next season’s roster looks more than a touch different than this year’s championship squad.

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