The Houston Astros made a tough decision on Friday, releasing former American League MVP José Abreu less than halfway through his three-year, $58.5 million contract. The decision was marked by financial implications and the emotional weight of parting with a player of Abreu’s caliber.

General manager Dana Brown reflected on the difficulty of the decision, noting the substantial financial commitment still owed to Abreu. “It’s always tough when the deal doesn’t work out, but it just didn’t work out this time,” Brown said to ESPN.

Abreu, 37, has struggled mightily this season, batting a dismal .124 with only two home runs and seven RBIs. His performance had already led to an effort to correct his swing, but the hoped-for resurgence never materialized. With $30.8 million still owed to him, the Astros had to make a hard call.

Both Brown and manager Joe Espada met with Abreu to deliver the news, a conversation that was challenging given Abreu’s contributions to the team. “I have nothing but good things to say about him,” Brown said. “He handled it well. He understands baseball, and he understands that he wasn’t producing and that he ran out of time.”

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Espada echoed these sentiments, highlighting Abreu’s professionalism and his significance to the team. “Very tough day,” Espada said. “It was not an easy conversation.”

Abreu, a three-time All-Star and the 2020 AL MVP during his tenure with the Chicago White Sox, signed with the Astros with high expectations. His career averages and accolades underscored his potential value. However, a .237 batting average last year hinted at a decline, which has continued into this season.

Brown noted the inability to see improvements in Abreu’s at-bats as a critical factor in the decision to move on. “We just didn’t see that there was a change in the at-bats, and we felt like it was probably time to make a change,” Brown said.

The decision shook through the Astros’ clubhouse, casting a somber mood before their 4-0 win over the Detroit Tigers. “Watching him go, it’s not good,” said teammate Mauricio Dubón. “We’re a family here, that’s the thing. It’s a gut punch for the vibe in the clubhouse.”

Looking forward, the Astros have turned to Jon Singleton as their everyday first baseman, “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, hitting .213 with five home runs and 14 RBIs in 50 games this season, is aware of the opportunity before him. “I’m still going to go out there and try to the best of my ability to help the team win ballgames. I’m grateful for the opportunity,” Singleton said.

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