Yesterday, it was reported that the Astros have agreed to a five-year, $151MM extension with Jose Altuve that’ll keep him in Houston through his age-34 season. As MLBTR’s Jeff Todd mentioned yesterday, the deal will be by far the largest extension ever given to a second baseman, handily topping the $110MM given to Dustin Pedroia by the Red Sox in 2013.
It’s also just the sixth deal in MLB history that comes with an average annual value greater than $30MM. A win above replacement is widely believed to be worth around $8MM, so it seems likely that Altuve could still provide the 4-ish WAR per year necessary to provide the Astros with surplus value on this new deal. Indeed, the reigning AL MVP and three-time batting champ has been worth 14.3 fWAR across the past two seasons alone.
Of course, it’s not a given that Houston’s star second baseman can maintain that level of production through the age of 34. Although his strongest and most notable skill is his penchant for making good contact (with an astonishingly low swinging strike rate) and racking up hits, a large part of his value is tied up in his baserunning. Though last season Altuve stole 32 bases and managed a .339 BABIP on grounders, history says that his speed isn’t likely to stick around past age 30, at least not to that level.
Even as his speed starts to go, however, contact ability and plate discipline (Altuve carries an incredible 10.7% career strikeout rate) are skills that typically tend to age well. And there’s something to be said for the Astros keeping the face of their franchise around through 2024.
It’s not unreasonable to think that Altuve could have earned a larger guarantee if he’d waited to hit the free agent market following the 2019 season. But as with his first extension with the Astros, he’ll essentially sacrifice earnings upside for added financial security… and a whole lot of it, too. The contract ranks as the 31st-largest guarantee in MLB history. He’s now guaranteed life-changing money, with a chance to earn even more when he hits the free agent market again six and a half years from now.
At this point, we want to know your opinion. What do you think of the second Altuve deal from the Astros’ perspective? (Poll link for app users)
What about from Altuve’s perspective? (Poll link for app users)