With Jose Altuve again starring in a deep Astros postseason run, it isn’t any surprise that the club wants to retain its longtime star. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale writes that Houston wants to keep Altuve in the fold for the rest of his career, and the time for negotiating is nearing, as 2024 is the final year of the second baseman’s current contract.
“The Astros privately say their focus is squarely on Altuve,” Nightengale writes, which is perhaps notable simply because Altuve isn’t the only prominent Houston player approaching the end of his deal. Alex Bregman will also be a free agent after the 2024 season, and Ryan Pressly might also hit the open market since he and the Astros share a $14MM mutual option for 2025 (though this option vests if Pressly makes at least 50 appearances in 2024). Justin Verlander could also be a free agent if he doesn’t pitch at least 140 innings next season, but if he does hit that threshold, he’ll gain a $35MM player option for 2025 that he might well choose to exercise for what would be his age-42 season.
Of course, nothing is stopping the Astros from also exploring extensions with any of these other players. However, it could be that Altuve is seen as a particular priority given his status as a franchise icon. The story of Altuve’s rise from obscure international prospect to cornerstone player has been well-documented, and there isn’t much indication that Altuve is slowing down in his age-33 season. Though he was limited to 90 games in 2023 due to a broken thumb and an oblique strain, Altuve still hit .311/.393/.522 over 410 plate appearances during the regular season, and he has a .970 OPS over 24 PA in the first five games of the ALCS.
Altuve’s current deal overwrote the last two years of his previous extension with the Astros, and guaranteed him $151MM over the course of the 2020-24 seasons. Another five-year extension that began with the 2025 season would therefore run through Altuve’s age-39 season, and quite possibly the end of his career.
Estimating a dollar figure for a hypothetical Altuve extension is an interesting exercise, considering that Altuve is represented by the Boras Corporation (who also handled the second baseman’s previous deal). Scott Boras is known to always demand top dollar for his clients, and Altuve’s performance certainly would seem to still merit a hefty salary even through his mid-to-late 30’s. That said, it also seems plausible that Altuve might at least consider some level of hometown discount, thus freeing some more money for the Astros to keep the core together. Besides Bregman, Pressly, and Verlander, there is also the trio of Framber Valdez, Kyle Tucker, and Jose Urquidy all nearing free agency once their arbitration eligibility is up following the 2025 campaign.
The Astros have surpassed the luxury tax threshold only once (in 2020) in franchise history, as Houston has been able to sustain its run of success while keeping their payroll in relative check. While frequently landing within the top 10 of Opening Day payrolls, Houston ranked only 14th in spending at the start of this season. The Astros have been willing to let some stars walk, such as Carlos Correa after the 2021 season or Verlander last winter (before Verlander was re-acquired from the Mets at the trade deadline).
Other extensions have also played a role in the Astros’ budget management, as the team was proactive in locking up some young stars relatively early in their careers. Bregman was signed to a five-year/$100MM extension, Yordan Alvarez to a six-year/$118MM extension, and Cristian Javier to a five-year/$64MM long-term pact. Alvarez, Javier, and Lance McCullers Jr. are the only Astros players on the books beyond the 2025 season.