It’s anyone’s guess what free agency will look like when we get there at the end of the 2020 season. Odds are, it won’t be particularly lucrative for older first basemen. But Astros first bagger Yuli Gurriel is among the top players available and could draw wide interest if he’s able to repeat his productive 2019 effort.
To the extent Gurriel is pondering his future, he’s thinking more about where he’ll be than how much he’ll make. If he gets his way, Gurriel told reporters including Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter), he’ll return to the Houston organization.
This is actually the fourth anniversary of the ’Stros announcement of their five-year, $47.5MM deal with Gurriel. The long-time Cuban star was considered a clear MLB talent, though there were questions about how productive he’d be at a relatively advanced age.
There have been a few ups and downs, but Gurriel has generally provided strong offensive output. He was at his best in 2019, when he launched 31 home runs and slashed .298/.343/.541 in 612 plate appearances.
Gurriel could have opted into arbitration this past offseason, but instead negotiated a $300K boost over and above the $8MM salary he was already promised. His contract still provides for termination at the end of the 2020 season, thus preventing the Astros from retaining him through arbitration.
It remains to be seen if the Houston club will share Gurriel’s interest in a reunion. Cost efficiency will surely be a primary consideration for the data-driven club, which will be looking to account for the departure of numerous big bats. We haven’t had any opportunity to see the roster-building proclivities of new GM James Click. The former Rays exec certainly came up in a culture that rewarded creative tinkering over big splashes.