The Astros are set to exercise their $8MM club option to bring Yuli Gurriel back for 2022, the first baseman himself announced on Twitter. That’s hardly an unexpected development, as that option has looked like a mere formality for months given how well Gurriel played in 2021.
Gurriel returns for what’ll be a seventh season in Houston. A productive hitter over his first few seasons, he scuffled through an uncharacteristically poor 2020 campaign. Despite those struggles, the Astros struck early to keep him from reaching free agency last winter, signing him for a guaranteed $7.5MM in September with the 2022 option. It seemed a bit of a puzzling move at the time, but it turned out to be a fantastic decision by general manager James Click and his staff.
Not only did Gurriel return to form this past season, he posted a career year. Over 605 plate appearances, the right-handed hitter put up a .319/.383/.462 line with 15 home runs. That .319 mark won Gurriel his first batting title, and his overall offensive output was 34 percentage points above the league average by measure of wRC+. While he doesn’t hit for the kind of power typically found at the position, Gurriel is one of the game’s hardest players to strike out and walked in a career-high 9.8% of his plate appearances this past season.
With Gurriel’s option taken care of, he’ll return to again assume the everyday first base job. The move brings the Astros’ guaranteed 2022 commitments just north of $114MM, in the estimation of Jason Martinez of Roster Resource. An arbitration class collectively projected to earn around $14.5MM will push that total near $130MM before considering outside additions. That’s about $60MM shy of their season-opening outlay in 2021, so Click and his staff should have some flexibility in trying to retain or replace a free agent group that includes Carlos Correa, Justin Verlander,Kendall Graveman and Zack Greinke.