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Three takeaways from Jose Altuve’s contract extension with Astros

Houston made their second baseman an Astro for life on Tuesday. We break down what it means for the franchise both this year and moving forward.

Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros takes the field prior to Game 6 of the ALCS between the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on Sunday, October 22, 2023 in Houston, Texas. Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Just over 24 hours after Bobby Witt Jr. broke the bank with the Kansas City Royals, MLB’s extension season rolls on. Next up is a future Hall of Famer: Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the Houston Astros have reached an agreement with Jose Altuve on a five-year, $125 million contract extension that will keep the star second baseman around through the 2029 season.

As you might expect given Altuve’s age (he’ll turn 34 in May), the deal is front-loaded: He’ll make $30 million a year from 2025-27, $25 million in 2028, and $10 million in 2029, his age-39 season. While injuries — including an errant pitch during the WBC that led to a broken thumb — derailed much of Altuve’s 2023 season, he was his same old self when on the field, delivering a .311/.393/.522 slash line with 17 homers and 14 steals in 90 regular-season games and coming up big time and time again come October.

Unfortunately, those heroics weren’t enough, and from the moment their 2023 campaign ended in a heartbreaking loss at home in Game 7 of the ALCS, the clock began ticking on a monumental offseason in Houston. With Justin Verlander pushing into his 40s and both Altuve and Alex Bregman entering contract years, GM Dana Brown was going to have to make some major decisions as he attempted to load up for one more World Series run while also keeping an eye on the future. And he’s done just that, locking up his franchise icon just weeks after making a splash in free agency for star closer Josh Hader.

But what does this mean for the ‘Stros in both 2024 and beyond? Was handing this much money to a player entering his mid-30s a prudent move? What sort of ramifications will this have on Houston’s payroll? Let’s break it all down.

‘Astro for life’

Altuve was the rare Scott Boras client to opt for an extension rather than test the market the last time he approached free agency, and he’s done it again here. While he’s certainly done well for himself during his Major League career, it’s also fair to say that he’s left substantial money on the table in order to secure his future in Houston. Altuve and the Astros have been through a lot together, and now they’re primed to see through the end of his career.

“Altuve was here when I got here in 2011. We’re the only two guys that have been here that long,” owner Jim Crane told Tuesday. “Not only has he performed well, but to have him hopefully retire here is a big deal for the franchise, for him and the fans, more importantly.”

Even though he was a year from free agency, it was always hard to see Altuve wearing another big-league uniform. He’s still an awfully good player, one who figures to be a positive contributor for at least the next couple of years. More broadly, though, it’s hard to overstate his importance to the team, the city and its fans. You could trot out the numbers, and they are impressive: Altuve is the Astros’ franchise leader in batting average (.307), doubles (400), runs (1,062) and stolen bases (293); he ranks third in hits (2,047) and fifth in home runs (209); and he’s second on the all-time list in postseason home runs (27) and third all-time in postseason hits (117). You could trot out the highlight reel, or relive his central role in bringing the franchise its only two World Series titles in 2017 and 2022.

But really, Altuve means much more than that. He began his career as a curiosity, a 5-foot-nothing infielder with no power to speak of racking up stats on a team going nowhere fast — Houston racked up a whopping 324 losses over his first three seasons in the Majors. But then, both player and team defied the odds, Altuve blossoming into a two-way star as the Astros turned into the defining team of their era. It’s fitting that he’ll end his career — and make his run at 3,000 hits — in an Astros uniform. Of course, while it was hard to see the Astros not choosing their foundational star, that doesn’t mean the move is without consequence.

Say goodbye to Alex Bregman

From the moment the offseason began, it was hard not to view Houston’s choice as Altuve or Bregman. The Astros were already set to run one of the biggest payrolls in the league in 2024, and handing big contracts to both players would push them into the highest reaches of the luxury tax — a place even a big spender Crane would have a difficult time going.

You can’t really blame Brown for picking Altuve: Beyond his meaning to the franchise, he also figures to be the cheaper of the two, given that he’s nearly four years older. Bregman is another Boras client, and he figures to command a haul in a 2025 free-agent market that figures to once again be relatively light on impact infielders. Anything is impossible, but barring a drastic turn of events, you can count on Bregman wearing another uniform this time next year.

Alvarez, Tucker next?

There’s no rest for the weary. With Altuve’s deal done, Brown now has two other extension-ready stars to worry about: Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker, ready to take the baton from Altuve and Bregman as the twin engines of Houston’s offense. Both players are two years away from free agency, meaning that now would be the time to lock them up if Houston wants to avoid getting squeezed next winter — the closer each of them get to the free market, the more likely they are to test it. As with any extended run of success, the Astros have had to weather plenty of change; they let Carlos Correa and George Springer walk, after all, and have hardly missed a beat with Jeremy Pena and Tucker filling their shoes. But Alvarez and Tucker are two of the very best position-players in the sport, each smack in their prime, and trying to convince them to stay in Houston over the long haul will be a fascinating test for Brown moving forward.