Astros release José Abreu with $30.8 million remaining on his contract

HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Astros released José Abreu on Friday, cutting ties with the former AL MVP less than halfway through a three-year, $58.5 million contract.

General manager Dana Brown said this was an extremely difficult decision considering how much money he is still owed.

“It’s always tough when the deal doesn’t work out, but it just didn’t work out this time,” Brown said.

The 37-year-old Abreu was batting .124 (14 for 113) with two homers and seven RBIs this season, during which he spent time in the minors trying to fix his swing. The Astros still owe him $30.8 million from the deal he signed before last season.

Brown and manager Joe Espada met with Abreu on Friday afternoon to deliver the news.

“I have nothing but good things to say about him,” Brown said. “I thought he was very graceful. He handled it well. He understands baseball and he understands that he wasn’t producing and that he ran out of time.”

Espada raved about Abreu's professionalism and said releasing him was difficult.

“Very tough day,” he said. “It was not an easy conversation. José Abreu has meant (a lot) to this organization, helping us get to another championship series last year. And with what he’s done in this game, it was not easy.”

A three-time All-Star during his nine years with the Chicago White Sox, Abreu was named MVP during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. He was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2014 after defecting from his native Cuba the previous year.

He agreed to be optioned to Houston's minor league facility in West Palm Beach, Florida, on April 30 in an attempt to get back on track at the plate. He spent about a month away from the big league team and played seven games in the minors, but the demotion didn't translate to more success when he returned to the majors on May 27.

“Ultimately when guys lose their timing, you look for them to go down and to regain their timing and to get on time with the baseball to have quality at-bats and things like that," Brown said. “And we just didn’t see it. We didn’t see that there was a change in the at-bats and we felt like it was probably time to make a change.”

Abreu's production dropped off significantly with the Astros. He batted .237 last year, the lowest average of his career, with 18 homers and 90 RBIs.

Abreu is a career .283 hitter with 263 homers and 960 RBIs in 11 seasons.

Houston's clubhouse was somber before Friday's game and teammate Mauricio Dubón said Abreu was an important part of the team despite his struggles this season.

“Watching him go, it's not good,” Dubón said. “We're a family here, that's the thing. It's a gut punch for the vibe in the clubhouse.”

Houston owes him $30,822,504, including $11,322,504 remaining from this year’s salary and $19.5 million for 2025. Any team can sign him for a prorated share of the $740,000 major league minimum, with the Astros responsible for the rest.

The Astros will look to Jon Singleton to be their everyday first baseman for now, and Brown said he hopes that he'll take advantage of the opportunity so they won't have to go after a first baseman before the trade deadline.

“Ultimately if he can step up now that he’s getting some playing time... if he grabs the bull by the horns and he takes off, then we won’t have to address that at first base,” Brown said.

Singleton entered Friday hitting .213 with five home runs and 14 RBIs in 50 games this season.

“I actually don't feel any different,” he said. “I'm still going to go out there and try to the best of my ability to help the team win ball games. I'm grateful for the opportunity.”