The Astros have reached a deal to avoid arbitration with slugger Evan Gattis, according to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). Gattis will be guaranteed $3.4MM in the deal, Drellich tweets, but $100K of that comes in the form of a buyout for a $5.2MM club option for the 2017 campaign.
Gattis was a first-time arb-eligible player this year, so the contract does not impact his free-agent timeline. The sides had been set for a hearing this afternoon, but that won’t be necessary after agreeing to terms. Gattis had filed at $3.8MM, with Houston countering at $3MM. Entering the offseason, MLBTR projected the bat-first ballplayer to take home $3.4MM — which turned out to be the final agreed-upon value.
The settlement represents a creative solution. For Houston, there’s some nice cost-saving potential build into this arrangement. Gattis has put up 49 home runs over the past two seasons, and that kind of power output could lead to a big raise through the arb process. While he now locks in a ceiling on his 2017 earning capacity without getting any promises that he’ll be tendered, Gattis has insured against any injury or performance issues this spring by securing what appears to be a fully-guaranteed deal. (Arb agreements are only partially guaranteed unless otherwise provided.)
Both player and team will hope for a more well-rounded effort in the coming season. The 29-year-old swatted a career-best 27 long balls last year, but saw his overall output drop to a disappointing .246/.285/.463 slash over 604 plate appearances. For a player that spent the vast majority of his time in a DH role, that’s not quite enough production. Though Gattis did suffer from a low .264 BABIP, that figure was explained in part by the fact that he made less hard contact and had a higher infield fly rate in 2015 than he had previously. The slow-footed former catcher also put the ball on the ground more frequently.
Of course, Gattis will first have to work his way back from hernia surgery. He’s not expected to miss much time, if any, but it will put him on the back foot to start the spring and may have played a role in his decision to take Houston up on this contractual arrangement rather than rolling the dice on a hearing.