Dollar Signs

Bregman deal could easily pay off for Astros as well as the player

Alex Bregman, um, hit it big with his contract. Getty Images

Alex Bregman proved this week that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. He alerted the media that he was displeased with his $41,000 raise after carrying the team last year and boy did it pay off to the tune of a $100,000,000 extension through 2024.

Is it a good deal? We shall see. It's an awfully big risk for a team that didn't have to take it. Suppose he gets hurt? Suppose his numbers fall off badly?

Remember this is the same organization that kept first round draft pick George Springer in the minors until he was 24 years old even though he had played college ball and was hitting 37 home runs and stealing 45 bases in the minors. He was none too pleased that he won't hit free agency until he's 31. Hopefully his time spent here has softened him some on the subject.

This is also the same organization that just went to arbitration with former No. 1 overall pick Carlos Correa over $750,000. That's a pittance in the baseball world. He was asking for $5,000,000. They offered $4,250,000. The arbitrator sided with Correa. I would imagine the Astros weren't all that critical of Correa although they could have been. He just wasn't the same guy that many of us thought he would be after he got back from his back injury.

Think about where we were a year ago today. Correa was coming off a year in which he was a cog in a World Series winner, an all-star who hit .315 with 24 HR and 84 RBI and .941 OPS. He was thought to be one of the top five young players in the game, a guy you built your team around. A season later he's fighting for $750,000 while his less experienced teammate is raking in a $100,000,000 raise.

That $100M will be money well spent if Bregman continues on the path he is on. It will actually be a bargain. A couple of other third basemen who have been going through the process are the Cubs Kris Bryant and the Rockies Nolan Arenado. Bryant got a record 10.85M deal a year ago and came to terms on a $12.9M deal this offseason. Arenado just got a new 8 year, $260M contract. Bryant will be coming to terms on that kind of long term deal soon.

The Astros didn't want to haggle with the boisterous Bregman every year. He's not afraid to speak his mind. We know that. He's not complaining now but we'll see how he feels about this deal in 2024. Right now $20M through these arbitration years is made for TV, feel good kinda stuff. When he's still making that two years into what his free agency would have been he might not have that special feeling anymore, especially when the Mike Trout's $430M deal is halfway home.

Bregman's deal seems like a lot now but in the long run, if he continues to play at the level he established last year, this could be a very team friendly contract by the end.

On the flip side, if he falls off this could be a devastating move. In reality Bregman has only been at this level for a year and a half. He wasn't very good midway through the '17 season, hitting at the bottom of the order. On July 2 his average was down to .244 for the season but then something clicked. In July he hit .329. In August he hit .345 and the legend was born.

Quick, what's Bregman's post season average?

I was shocked to see it's just .229 but that's deceiving. His playoff on-base percentage is .353. Boston walked or hit him nine times in last year's ALCS. That's some healthy respect and for good reason. They saw his clutch gene up close. His homer off Chris Sale in game 4 of the '17 ALDS was a back breaker. Add to it his World Series Game 5 heroics and his monster series against the Indians last year and you've got a guy who's not only really good, he's not afraid to be great.

He's become one of baseball's best. There is always the fear that he could fall off and that contract could become an albatross but I think the Astros probably see his work ethic and that giant chip he carries on his shoulder all the time and they have the utmost confidence that he'll live up to every penny and then some.

Here's to hoping that he's pissed off again about how much he's getting paid six years from now.

There are plenty of reasons to watch

An exciting week ahead for the Astros

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After the disappointing 12-0 blowout loss to the Blue Jays on Father's Day to end last week, Houston will turn the page to a new one with some compelling components to look forward to in the next seven days. With a full seven-game week ahead, here are some of the things to be watching for:

The Alvarez roadshow

We are six games into the Yordan Alvarez experience, and over those six games, he has homered in four. Some of those would have been home runs nearly anywhere, but this week we will get to see how he handles leaving the confines of Minute Maid Park.

Luckily for Alvarez, both Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati and Yankee Stadium in New York provide a boost for left-handed hitters, especially Yankee Stadium with its short porch in right field. He'll also potentially get to face some pitchers who have been struggling with the long ball in Tyler Mahle for the Reds and J.A. Happ for the Yankees. It should shape up to be another big week at the plate for Alvarez, maintaining his at-bats as being much-watch TV.

Pitchers hitting in Cincinnati 

Houston will make their first trip to a National League park in 2019 to start the week with a three-game series with the Reds. The inter-league matchup presents the rare opportunity to see the DH-less Astros send their pitcher to the plate to try and contribute on offense.

The three pitchers we will get to see: Wade Miley, Justin Verlander, and Gerrit Cole. Miley has a career batting average of .155 including one home run from back in 2013 with the Diamondbacks. Last year with the Brewers he hit .185 with five hits and a walk over 27 at-bats.

Cole is no stranger to the batter's box, playing the first five years of his career in the National League for Pittsburgh. He's a career .168 hitter and hit a home run in three out of his five seasons with the Pirates. However, he lost a little bit of his swing last season, going 0-for-9 with eight strikeouts for the Astros in his first season as part of his new American League team.

Then there's Justin Verlander. He has played in the AL his entire career, making him mostly a stranger at the plate. That makes it no surprise that his batting numbers aren't quite at the level of his dominant pitching numbers, hitting just .104 in his career. He has notched an RBI, though, getting the first of his career in 2017 for the Tigers before coming over to Houston.

So with that, it should be an entertaining series to start the week, and will likely make fans of the American League relish the fact that they get to have a Designated Hitter in the lineup every day.

Two starts for Verlander

While he may not be an All-Star with a bat, he's definitely on track to a lot of awards this year on the mound. Verlander is scheduled to make two starts this week, one on Tuesday night against the Reds, then another on Sunday in New York against the Yankees.

Not only does that mean two chances to see if Verlander can keep up the breakneck pace he's on in 2019, but it will also mean moving up another spot on the all-time strikeout list. At 2,831 in his career, he's just one away from tying, and two from passing, Mickey Lolich for the 19th spot on the famed list. Lolich has a connection with Justin, as he pitched thirteen seasons with the Tigers between 1963 and 1975.

Once Verlander takes over that spot, next up will be Jim Bunning who sits in 18th with 2,855 strikeouts, 24 ahead of the Astros' ace. Considering he threw 15 Ks in his last start, it's not out of the realm of possibility that he could be tied or in sole possession of that 18th spot before the week is over, though to do so he'll have to have a fantastic game against a very potent Yankees lineup.

Potential pieces coming back into place

We should know more after tomorrow's game which will be a back-to-back start for the former-MVP, but the Astros are expected to have Jose Altuve rejoin the team while on this road trip. Not that the Astros have been horrid on offense without him, but having him back on the field will provide an uptick in performance, and moral.

Two other players in similar situations as Altuve and expected to come back up are Max Stassi and Collin McHugh. Stassi will likely retake his roster spot as the backup catcher, meaning Garret Stubbs will make the trip back to Round Rock. As far as McHugh, we will have to wait and see if he makes some appearances out of the bullpen to ramp things back up before going back into the rotation, or if AJ Hinch has other plans going forward.

In any case, getting some of these players back means the team is getting healthy again. George Springer has been ramping up activities, and we should hear about a rehab assignment for him soon. Carlos Correa, however, remains sidelined and the Astros should remain conservative with his recovery.

Huge weekend series in the Bronx 

After the three-game set in Cincinnati against the Reds, the Astros will travel to New York for a big four-game weekend series with the Yankees. The Yankees made a big splash in the trade market this past week, taking advantage of a liquidating Mariners team who was willing to deal Edwin Encarnacion to New York for a lone prospect player along with some cash trading. Encarnacion currently leads the American League in home runs, giving the Yankees yet another mighty bat in their lineup.

Two of the other powerful batters that are scheduled to make returns to the lineup this week: Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Both are currently on rehab stints and expected to rejoin the major-league team before this week is over. The Yankees will catch the 3-4-5-1 spots in Houston's rotation, which will be an intriguing matchup on both sides.

In any case, no matter who we see back in the lineups this weekend, it's going to be a fun and high-intensity matchup with these two teams currently both in the top four in win-loss records in the league. Also, the Yankees will likely be out to even the score after the Astros swept them in Houston in a three-game series in early April.

It sets up to be what many consider a preview of an ALDS or ALCS matchup between two of the best teams not only in the American League but the entire league.

Where will the Astros stand, both in their record and in roster spots, when this week concludes? It's hard to predict, but regardless, it should be a fun week to catch some Astros games on TV.

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