While the Astros prepare for the 2024 season, star infielders Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman are headed into the final years of their contracts, with free agency looming next winter. As relayed by The Athletic’s Chandler Rome, Houston GM Dana Brown recently made clear that the club has not had extension discussions with either player this winter. The same goes for outfielder Kyle Tucker, who Rome adds recently indicated that he and the club did not discuss a long-term extension before agreeing to a $12MM salary for the 2024 season to avoid arbitration earlier this month. This winter marked Tucker’s penultimate trip through arbitration, and he’ll be eligible for free agency following the 2025 season.
That the team has not yet broached possible extension talks with any of the aforementioned trio is something of a surprise. Houston has leaned heavily on extensions to keep its core together since the team first returned to contention back in 2015. Over the past six years, the Astos have handed out extensions to Altuve, Bregman, Ryan Pressly (in both 2019 and 2022), Justin Verlander, Yordan Alvarez, Cristian Javier, and Lance McCullers Jr. that extended the team’s window of control over each player.
With that being said, it’s worth noting that an unusually slow offseason has left the baseball world still in the thick of free agency, which could serve as a complicating factor in potential extension talks. Such discussions, particularly those for players like Altuve and Bregman who are not under control via arbitration, are often held once Spring Training begins. Last spring, Astros brass expressed a desire to work out deals with each of Altuve, Bregman, Tucker, Javier, and Framber Valdez, though the aforementioned Javier extension was the only one that ultimately got done. While it’s certainly possible that any of the trio could begin extension negotiations with the club after reporting to camp next month, each is a multi-time All Star coming off a strong season at the plate and could prove expensive to lock in long-term when free agency is just over the horizon.
More notes from Houston…
- Now that the Astros have agreed to a five-year deal to bring star closer Josh Hader to Houston it seems as though Pressly, who has served as the club’s closer in each of the past four seasons, may be moving out of that role. Rome notes, however, that both Brown and manager Joe Espada discussed the situation with the 35-year-old veteran in the days leading up to their agreement with Hader. Each said that the conversation with Pressly went well, adding that he’s “all in” for his new role in the club’s bullpen as a premiere set-up option to Hader alongside youngster Bryan Abreu. Pressly posted a solid 3.58 ERA and 3.36 FIP while striking out 27.6% of batters faced last season, while Abreu dominated opposing hitters with a 34.8% strikeout rate and a 1.75 ERA in 72 appearances. Adding Hader to the mix figures to give Houston perhaps the most fearsome back-end trio in any bullpen around the league entering the 2024 campaign.
- Rome also relayed an update on the status of McCullers, who underwent flexor tendon surgery back in June. McCullers has progressed to the point of throwing off flat ground from 80 feet away and noted that he’s feeling good, though when asked about his timetable for return suggested that a feasible timeline could involve him returning sometime during the late summer. With three years remaining on the contract extension the righty signed prior to the 2021 season, the deal hasn’t gone how either side was hoping to this point. While he’s pitched to a strong 3.16 ERA and 3.55 FIP with a 26.3% strikeout rate since the ink dried on the pact, he’s made just 47 starts across the past three seasons and appears ticketed for another season spent primarily on the shelf in 2024. Until McCullers returns to action, the club figures to rely on some combination of Jose Urquidy, Hunter Brown, and J.P. France to fill out the rotation alongside Verlander, Valdez, and Javier.