Astros Week: Brown Coming in Hot, Javier Signs Extension

Christian Javier gets a new deal.
Christian Javier gets a new deal. Photo by Jack Gorman
Hard to believe, but Spring Training has arrived. In just a few days, Astros players will hit the field in West Palm Beach, Florida. Pitchers and catchers report February 16 and position players on February 21. If it seems like it was a short offseason, that's because it definitely was. That is what happens when you win it all and the season is pushed back into November thanks to a lockout.

Simultaneously, there are a bunch of Astros playing in the World Baseball Classic that runs concurrently with the first couple weeks of Spring Training. We'll dive into whether (and how) that might impact guys in those games later. For now, more pressing news with new GM Dana Brown basically offering extensions to EVERYBODY and getting at least one of them done already.

Christian Javier signs five-year extension?

For a guy who split time between the bullpen and the starting rotation last year, Javier finished the season on a roll. There are those around the league – we may be included in that group – who believe Javier is a star on the rise. His near magic "invisi-ball" heater has been devastating for hitters and his demeanor keeps him under control even in pressure situations. On Friday, he was rewarded with a five-year, $64 million extension that avoids arbitration and keeps him with the Astros through 2027. Javier, Framber Valdez, Lance McCullers, Jr., Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia and Hunter Brown are considered so good, the Astros were able to let a Cy Young winner walk in the offseason. Javier is the first extension off the board.

Kyle Tucker loses arbitration hearing.

Tucker lost his arbitration hearing getting only $5 million instead of the $7.5 million he wanted. As good as Tucker was last year, his OPS, batting average and on-base percentage were all down from 2021. Additionally, he wasn't great in the postseason. Still, he is clearly one of the best right fielders in baseball, which is why he is likely one of the next guys to get an extension. The Astros have tried and failed to sign Tucker previously, but with a new GM comes new hope they can lock up one of their core young players.

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Dana Brown hit the ground running when he was hired by Jim Crane.
Photo by Jack Gorman
Dana Brown comes out guns-a-blazing.

Speaking of locking up layers, the new GM came in firing live rounds this week. He told members of the media he was already negotiating with players about extensions including Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve, guys no one was really thinking about for new deals. Then, on Friday, news came down that he managed to lock up Javier. Say what you will about Brown, he clearly does not mess around. Also, his frankness about extensions and the team likely not re-signing fan favorite Yuli Gurriel is refreshing. We are still only a couple weeks into his tenure, but he is already leaving a mark and setting a standard that felt lacking under James Click. We see now why Jim Crane hired him.

Catcher, center field make for interesting spring training storylines.

With Spring Training just days away, there are some interesting storylines to watch. First, backup catcher, who's it gonna be? With the team trying and failing to land a second catcher in the offseason, Martin Maldonado will clearly be the main guy who hopes to play in 120-plus games this season. But, backing him up will probably be left to one of two rookies: Kory Lee and Yanier Diaz. Lee is better behind the plate, but the Astros love Diaz's bat and the fact he can play some first base. Then there is center field. Clearly, this is Chas McCormick's spot to lose. If you dig into his numbers last season, they weren't as bad as it felt. Still, with a team this loaded, we can't help but look for the next big thing.

We wonder what will happen with Jake Meyers. He was the heir apparent to George Springer when he was injured in the 2021 playoffs and fell completely off the map. Then there is rookie Pedro Leon, who has absolutely destroyed at the plate in Sugar Land. He will miss half of Spring Training recovering from surgery, which probably takes him out of the mix to make the 40-man roster to start the season. But, don't be surprised to see him up in the bigs early in the year. 
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke