Yet, despite the excellent won-loss record, the team's everyday lineup is still kind of stuck in third gear. (For comparison's sake, they've operated with the gas pedal pinned in fifth gear since 2017.) As of the middle of this week, they hovered around the middle of MLB in OPS, batting average, and runs scored. There are reasons for the underperformance, but Yordan Alvarez is NOT one of them.
Alvarez is beginning to heat up, with an OPS hovering around 1.000 and last week's American League Player of the Week plaque in his locker. He also has a brand new contract extension, six years for $115 million, that kicks in next season.
This was a tremendous move by GM James Click and owner Jim Crane, locking up one of the best hitters in baseball for pretty much the rest of the decade at an extremely reasonable price. Here are a few thoughts on this deal and the big picture for the Astros:
Slugger Yordan Álvarez and the Houston Astros are in agreement on a six-year, $115 million contract extension, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN. Contract kicks in next season. Biggest contract ever for a DH and $26M/year for 3 FA years. And Astros lock up a great hitter.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 3, 2022
The Astros' press release announcing the deal had some juicy stats!
There were a ton of accolades and numbers listed in the press release, but I narrowed it down to a few of my favorites. Alvarez was the first player in franchise history to homer in each of his first two games and later set club records for homers within a player’s first 12 games (7), 11 games (6), 10 games (5) and five games (4). For is rookie season, in just 87 games, he hit .313 with 26 doubles, 27 home runs and 78 RBI while posting a .412 on-base percentage and a .655 slugging percentage. He also established a new MLB record for OPS by a rookie with a 1.067 mark (minimum 350 plate appearances). Finally, since his debut in 2019, he has the highest slugging percentage (.585) and OPS (.959) in baseball (for players who've played in a minimum of 250 games).
Could Kyle Tucker be next?
Coming into the season, Alvarez and Kyle Tucker were on the same contractual path, both under team control through the 2025 season. Like the Astros did with Alex Bregman three years into his career before the 2019 season, it made a lot of sense to lock up one or both on long term deals to extend the window of the team's nucleus in a cost effective fashion. Now, Alvarez is done. Reportedly, the Astros had been talking to Tucker about an extension, but talks recently broke off. Hopefully, they pick up again soon. For what it's worth, if they were offering Tucker identical money to Alvarez, I think waiting it out makes sense for Tucker, whose Gold Glove level ability in the field is a real difference maker, along with his productive bat.
Even without an extension for Tucker, the title window for this team is enticing!
So here is a summary on the Astros' nucleus, and how long their key players are under team control:
JUSTIN VERLANDER through 2022 (vesting player option for 2023)
LANCE McCULLERS through 2026
FRAMBER VALDEZ through 2025
LUIS GARCIA through 2026
JOSE URQUIDY through 2025
CRISTIAN JAVIER through 2025
RYAN PRESSLY through 2024 (vesting option for 2025)
EVERY DAY LINEUP
JOSE ALTUVE through 2024
ALEX BREGMAN through 2024
KYLE TUCKER through 2025
JEREMY PENA through 2027.
YORDAN ALVAREZ through 2028
And to think this is what you got for JOSH FIELDS back in 2016!
The #Astros have acquired Cuban minor league IF/OF Yordan Alvarez from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for RHP Josh Fields.— Houston Astros (@astros) August 1, 2016
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