BANK ON BREGGY

How an unconventional approach could keep Alex Bregman in an Astros uniform

How an unconventional approach could keep Alex Bregman in an Astros uniform
Can the Astros afford to let Alex Bregman hit free agency.?Composite image by Brandon Strange.

Astros owner Jim Crane may want to check under his sofa cushions for loose change, start clipping coupons, take a hammer to his piggy bank, and consider playing golf after 1 p.m. and eating dinner before 5 p.m. for the early bird special. Because the price of signing star third baseman Alex Bregman to a contract extension – which the Astros have said is on their to-do list – just went through the Minute Maid Park roof.

Breggy may want to send Manny Machado a thank you note and a free case of salsa.

The San Diego Padres signed their All-Star third sacker Machado to an 11-year contract worth $350 million this week. If Machado got $350 million, what will Bregman be worth if the Astros allow him to hit the free agent market after the 2024 season?

Let's compare and contrast. Actually there isn't much to contrast. Machado and Bregman have put up remarkably comparable numbers during their careers.

Career batting average: Machado (.282), Bregman (.277).

On-base percentage: Machado (.341), Bregman (.375).

OPS: Machado (.833), Bregman (.872).

Slugging: Machado (.493), Bregman (.497).

Both are slick fielders and fan favorites in their home cities. Machado was the third player taken in the 2010 draft. Bregman went No. 2 in 2015. Bregman has the edge in postseason statistics, a higher batting average and, of course, two World Series rings to Machado's zero. Of course, it helps that Bregman has played his entire 7-year career with the Astros while Machado has bounced from Baltimore to Los Angeles to San Diego during his 12 years in the big leagues.

Getting back to … if Machado is worth $350 million now without having to go through free agency, what might Bregman command on the open market if he stays healthy and productive through the 2024 season? The number could be staggering.

Bregman's agent is Scott Boras, who isn't exactly known for playing footsie with team owners and offering hometown discounts. You see Machado's $350 million? His agent is Boras. While we can only guess what baseball's economy will be like in 2024 heading into the 2025 season, what goes up doesn't always come down.

The stars and dollar signs are lining up for Bregman. The New York Yankees might be lurking for a third baseman. The current Yankee third baseman is Josh Donaldson. If you're real quiet, you can hear the echo of Yankees fans booing him last season when Donaldson hit a career low .222, He's also 37 years old. The Yankees played a split-squad game this week. Donaldson was with the B-team. While Donaldson is still the starter, consider that a message delivered.

Machado is 30 years old. That's how old Bregman will be at the end of 2024.

Bregman has a lot of intangibles in his favor. He is a baseball fanatic, obsessed with the game. He is involved with the city, offering his time to charities. He was born to do post-game interviews. He is a marketing dream. He has his own line of condiments.

Unlike the Astros, the Yankees aren't averse to offering long-term contracts, which Bregman surely could command in free agency. Sure, Bregman is saying all the right things down in spring training. He loves the Astros, he loves Houston, he loves his teammates. The Astros certainly would love to have Bregman play his entire career in Houston. His agent loves money and long-term deals, though.

Let's not minimize this, especially if he hits free agency and the Yankees are desperate for a third baseman. Bregman is Jewish. He would be a dream acquisition for New York. There are 1.6 million Jews in New York City. That's more than Tel Aviv and Jerusalem combined. Endorsement deals? Fugeddabbout it. Bregman's wife Reagan is a regular guest on Channel 2's Houston Life show. She would be hosting Coffee Talk on cable in New York.

Bregman, to his credit, isn't shy about saying he's open to suggestions of what might be available to him. Beloved as Bregman is in Houston, the Astros have said goodbye to popular players rather than offer long-term contracts. What the Astros could do is this - tear up his current contract and offer Bregman insane money, whatever it takes, over five years. That would keep Bregman here at least for the short haul, and Bregman would be only 33, still in his prime, when he's up for a new contract. Done deal.

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Will someone have to pay for the Astros' failures this season? Composite Getty Image.

It's no secret to anyone that the most disappointing start to the season in MLB has to belong to the Houston Astros. They are currently seven games under .500, 10 games behind the division-leading Mariners, and 7.5 games behind the Royals in the Wild Card race.

There's no question the Astros are dealing with a plethora of injuries this season, with seven starting pitchers spending time on the injured list.

Outfielders Kyle Tucker and Chas McCormick have also missed time with a bruised shin and hamstring strain, respectively.

But the club can't blame everything on health. Many of the players have underperformed this season, and the team's reluctance to move on from Jose Abreu with more urgency may have put them in a hole they won't be able to dig out of.

USA Today's Bob Nightengale wrote in a piece this week that Astros GM Dana Brown's job is “safe,” despite the team's struggles.

Brown reportedly has another two years on his contract after this season. He also wasn't here for the disastrous signings of Rafael Montero and Abreu, so he won't be blamed for those decisions.

His handling of Abreu this season certainly could have been better, many believed he waited too long to release the aging player. But once again, Brown may not have had the final say on when the Abreu experiment should have ended.

Many believe team consultant Jeff Bagwell and owner Jim Crane had to be the ones to okay Abreu's release.

But one thing is for sure, they way the organization handled the Abreu situation deserves all the criticism. If they really wanted to give Abreu a fair shot to turn things around, they should have sent him to Triple A for several weeks to try to regain his swing.

Instead, he returned after four weeks having played in only five games at the Astros Florida Complex, and two games with Triple A Sugar Land with little to no success.

So let's get this straight, they brought him back to face the Mariners, without proving he could hit minor league pitching? He struggled in the series on offense and defense, and Seattle took three of four. Which put the team even further back in the division.

And let's not forget, the Mariners have one of the best pitching rotations in baseball, and all their starters are right-handed.

Dana Brown faced the media alone after Abreu's release

Dana's comments about the Abreu saga didn't provide much clarity.

Brown talked about the Astros having a timeline for Abreu, but they didn't know what the timetable was?

Via The Athletic:

We ultimately had a timeline; we just didn't know when it was.

That's not at all confusing. So he basically said the at-bats weren't getting better, so they decided to make a change.Funny, we remember them telling us he looked much better, despite the results.

We get it. Sometimes teams have to say stuff publicly that they don't really believe. But Brown taking credit for being the driving force behind the decision to release Abreu isn't something we would bring up.

It's hard to imagine they could have handled the situation any worse.

Look at the positives

We are left with one possible silver lining. Maybe the Montero and Abreu contracts will keep former players like Bagwell from influencing personnel decisions.

And let's not forget, this mess was really created when Crane allegedly pushed former GM James Click out the door, thinking he knew better.

Add that to the list of things that aren't aging well for the Astros.

Be sure to watch the video above for the full conversation. You don't want to miss this!

Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and Charlie Pallilo discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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