On the heels of an AL MVP award and a World Series ring, Jose Altuve is about to get paid.
MLB.com beat reporter Brian McTaggart reported Friday that Altuve and the Houston Astros are closing in on a five-year contract extension that will begin in 2020 and pay the second baseman $150 million. (Jon Heyman reports that Altuve will actually get $151 million.)
That $30.2 million average annual salary will make Altuve one of baseball’s highest paid players and represent a huge raise for the five-time All-Star, who stands to make a combined $12.5 million over the next two seasons as part of the ludicrously cheap deal he signed in 2013.
Altuve’s new extension has a strong chance to pay off handsomely for both the player and the team. Altuve gets the big money he richly deserves while preserving his chance to hit free agency at age 34, when he might retain some value. The Astros, meanwhile, lock up their best and most popular player without having to pay him too far past his prime. Extensions that don’t begin for several years is always risky for a team (as the Phillies learned with one Ryan Howard), but this one seems well worth the risk.
One of the most impressive things about Altuve’s career is how steadily he has improved, from a useful player to an All-Star to a batting champion to an MVP. At age 27, he is coming off his best season, in which he won his third batting title with a .346/.410/.547, cranked 24 home runs and stole 32 bases. He was worth 8.3 WAR for the season, per Baseball-Reference, best in the league. That performance seems difficult to improve on, but we have said the before and Altuve has reliably proven us wrong.
Beyond its obvious on-field significance, this deal has symbolic significance for the Astros as well. The team’s investment in Altuve signals to its fans that ownership is willing to spend money to keep a great team on the field. It gives Houstonians hope that their team will be aggressive in working with, say, 23-year-old shortstop Carlos Correa on an extension before he hits free agency after the 2021 season.
The Astros have already won one World Series. Altuve’s new extension demonstrates that they don’t plan to stop there.