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Before it’s too late: Yuli Gurriel is making sense for the Astros again

Without a clear utility and Gurriel still a free agent, he can be an excellent option for the Astros’ bench.

MLB: Houston Astros-Championship Parade Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Two months ago, I wrote this article saying that the Astros should try to structure a multi-year deal with José Abreu or, in a worst-case scenario, re-sign Yuli Gurriel to a one-year contract. Weeks later, they did the former and secured Abreu as their new first baseman. However, without a clear utility man for the infield and with Gurriel still a free agent, they could consider the idea of bringing him back.

Now, it seems like the perfect time for the Astros to pick up veteran Gurriel, who will turn 39 years old on June 9. There hasn’t been much going on around Yuli this offseason except for some Marlins buzz, Spring Training is around the corner, and age is not helping him. But still, he can be a valuable contributor for the Astros. How? Let me explain below.

On a one-year contract, Gurriel can play a big bench role as injury insurance. Throughout his MLB career, Yuli has played second base, third base, and even shortstop besides excelling at first base. Though he may not provide a stellar glove covering second, third, or shortstop, he would represent an offensive upgrade over Mauricio Dubón, for example.

Imagine Abreu or Alex Bregman getting injured. You would have available a man who won the batting title in the American League in 2021 ready to fill in – a man that didn’t have a great season in 2022 but still hit 40 doubles and helped the Astros big time in the postseason to win the World Series. Even if Jeremy Peña suffers an injury through what will be his second MLB season, Bregman can move to shortstop and Yuli can cover the hot corner.

Gurriel might not be the guy he was in 2021 anymore – age does its thing and make skills decrease. But he’s a great clubhouse presence and a beloved man in Houston, he’s a leader and a veteran who can be huge in a short series. Despite the decline signs during the regular season, Gurriel still makes contact at an elite rate (85.7%) and rarely strikes out (0.5 SO/G). A one-year agreement would also allow him to say goodbye to his people the right way.

During the 2022 postseason, throughout 12 games, Gurriel hit for a .347/.360/.490 slash line and launched two key home runs against the Mariners and the Yankees in the ALDS and ALCS, respectively. That’s the last thing we saw from him wearing an Astros uniform.

That said, the Astros might take advantage of the current circumstances and beat the Marlins to bring back Yuli on a low-risk contract. I’m pretty sure he’d love to come back to Minute Maid Park.