Fresh off a NLCS appearance, the San Diego Padres aren’t far away from winning a World Series. In order to get to the mountain top, though, A.J. Preller needs to pave over the remaining holes. That would explain why the Padres identified longtime White Sox slugger Jose Abreu as a top priority this offseason.
With a hole at first base and designated hitter, Abreu represented the Padres’ premier option at either position. In a vacuum, you could argue the former AL MVP as one of the top free agents in this year’s cycle regardless of position.
On Monday morning, though, San Diego’s odds of landing Abreu dropped after The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal pegged the Astros — given their championship pedigree — and the Rays and Marlins (Abreu’s from Cuba and owns a home south of Miami) as potential landing spots for the coveted veteran.
Just a few hours later, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale confirmed Padres fans worst fears: Abreu is taking his talents to the hated Astros.
Padres top free agent target Jose Abreu signed with the Astros.
Talk about a gut punch for San Diego fans, who were already envisioning the havoc a lineup featuring a middle four of Fernando Tatis, Juan Soto, Abreu and Jake Cronenworth could wreak on opposing pitchers. How would Bob Melvin sort out where to bat each player? It’d be a fantastic problem to have.
Now, Preller must turn his attention elsewhere to fill the Padres’ vacancy at first base. The top remaining options include Trey Mancini, Josh Bell, Yuli Gurrell, Brandon Belt and utility players Brandon Drury and Donovan Solano. It’s not a luxurious list by any stretch, which makes losing Abreu such a tough pill to swallow.
It’d sting regardless of where Abreu signed, but the Astros? Baseball’s foremost villain of the last decade due to their cheating scandal? The club that’s lost George Springer, Gerrit Cole and Carlos Correa in recent years and just captured another World Series title? All Houston does is reload every offseason and win close to 100 games. Their floor every season is seemingly the ALCS.
Padres fans undoubtedly enjoyed watching Houston beat Philadelphia after the Phillies eliminated San Diego in the NLCS, but any sane baseball fan understands how sickening it is that’ve formed the closest thing the sport has seen to a dynasty in some time amid a sign-stealing investigation.
Preller is creative and aggressive enough to find a worthwhile consolation prize, but there’s no arguing the fact that Abreu was the cream of this year’s first base crop. Luckily, Preller is the type of general manager who always has another trick up his sleeve.