Less than two weeks prior to the beginning of the 2018 MLB season, the Astros and their MVP second-baseman Jose Altuve, have struck an agreement on a contract extension that will keep Altuve in a Houston uniform through the 2024 season.
As initially reported by Brian McTaggart, the agreement will commence at the end of Altuve’s current contract, which has two seasons remaining on it. The new agreement will be for the 2020 through 2024 MLB seasons and will pay Altuve a franchise-record $151 million in guaranteed money.
The deal comes as no surprise from the Astros point of view. After solid-but-unspectacular production from 2011 through 2013, Altuve broke out in a big way during the 2014 season, and over the last four seasons, and led the American League in hits all four years and the Majors in batting average three times. During that span, he has been worth 23.9 WAR, behind only Mike Trout and Josh Donaldson.
For Altuve, the motivation, while not baffling, is less clear. He was set to hit free agency just prior to his 30th birthday, and traditionally a player with his track record at that age could expect a contract no less than seven years for top-of-the-league money. This off-season’s shocking shift and lack of spending might have played at least some role in Altuve’s willingness to accept a lesser deal, though the per annum salary does seem quite in-line with what he could have expected on the open market.
The question now is how this might affect the Astros’ plans to extend other players. There was some thought, at least among some, that Altuve, despite having been the team’s obviously-best player for half a decade, might not have been the first choice for an extension, due to being older than most of the other core players. With him under contract, time will tell how much money there is left to go around, and who else will be willing to forego the suddenly-risky free agent process in exchange for the security and comforts of home.