The Astros have reportedly come to an agreement on a second extension for their second baseman, and the reigning AL MVP, Jose Altuve. Only, this time, Altuve did not sign as cheaply.
AL MVP Jose Altuve nearing 5-year, $150-million extension (beginning 2020) with the Astroshttps://t.co/vY88Sx6c8u
— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) March 16, 2018
The reported five-year, $151-millon deal will begin in 2020, or Altuve’s age-30 season.
Entering the 2014 season, the Astros signed Altuve to a pre-arb buyout deal that included two club options. At the time, it was unclear if the undersized Altuve would ever become more than a high-contact, low-power second baseman.
He was coming off an uninspiring season that included a .283/.316/.363 slash line, an 84 wRC+, and 0.7 WAR. Over three full seasons, the maybe 5-foot-6 dynamo had compiled just over two wins. The four-year, $12.5 millon deal with club options — options which, when exercised, will make it a six-year, $23.2 millon pact — seemed like a reasonable deal.
Since signing that agreement, however, Altuve has been excellent, recording a batting line at least 20% better than league average in four consecutive seasons — including a 151 and 160 wRC+ in the last two campaigns, respectively. As soon as Altuve traded upside for security, he became a star.
Altuve has continued to evolve, now exhibiting once unthinkable power, including consecutive 20-plus-homer seasons. He’s produced 26.2 WAR to date and cost the club only $12.7 million. It’s one of the great club-friendly deals of our time.
But now, Altuve is rightly going to be paid like a star.
The contract will rank 31st all-time in total dollars. While it’s possible Altuve could earn more should he wait and hit the open market — while it’s possible he could earn Robinson Cano money — he’s again trading in some upside for security in the event he sustains a serious injury or suffers premature decline. But he will be paid more closely to his true value, even if the deal might still provide surplus value for the club.
Altuve has been one of the most durable players in the game. The contract is not unlike the second extension to which the Rays and Evan Longoria agreed after Longoria had been playing on an absurdly undervalued deal. The Astros are also taking on some level of risk.
Still, Altuve and the Astros should stick together. They’ve grown up together. They’ve tanked together. They’ve come of age and won a World Series together. And while this website rarely emphasizes the importance of counting numbers, it would be kind of cool to see Altuve and the Astros reach 3,000 hits together.
He enters 2018 with 1,250 career hits. He’s posted four straight seasons of at least 200. He’ll be under club control for seven more years, according to the report. At 200 hits per season, he could be close to the magic hit number by the close of this second extension. Maybe that will lead to a third extension?
— Daren Willman (@darenw) March 16, 2018
This is a difficult era in which to reach 3,000 hits, one of the traditional benchmarks for a Hall of Fame batter. It’s a benchmark that will need to be replaced with more modern accounting as we move forward, perhaps. But if anyone can reach 3,000 hits today, it will be Altuve — and perhaps he will do it as an Astro, a rare one-star-with-one-team career.