ON SECOND THOUGHT

How results from Astros-Altuve negotiations spark an entirely new perspective

Astros Jim Crane, Jose Altuve, Dana Brown
Jose Altuve wasn't going anywhere. Composite Getty Image.

Jose Altuve signing a 5-year, $125 million contract that ensures he will be an Astro for life was a done deal, a fait accompli for you French majors, before ink hit paper.

Altuve, now undeniably the greatest Astro of all time, wanted to stay in Houston, and the Astros desperately needed to keep him here.

It made me wonder why Altuve hired Scott Boras as his agent. Boras is famous for taking his clients to free agency and squeezing every nickel and dime out of the team that signs his players. Altuve telling Boras to get a deal done with the Astros, and get it done before the 2024 season starts, must have driven Boras crazy. You can imagine Boras pleading with Altuve, “c’mon, let me make the Astros squirm. Let’s make them beg. This is what I do for fun.”

Hiring Boras, when Altuve had no desire to play anywhere else and money wasn’t the main issue, was like calling the bomb squad because the kid across the street is playing with matches.

If the Astros had kept Altuve hanging without a contract this season, or lowballed him, or, heaven forbid, tried to trade him, the Astros fan base, heck the entire city of Houston, would have turned owner Jim Crane into Public Enemy No. 1.

Altuve’s press conference and contract signing was such a renewal of vows between player and team that I expected to hear Michael Buble singing as the happy couple left the room.

This is how crazy sports economics have become: a 33-year-old player, coming off an injury-riddled season, whose stats are in decline, signs a contract for $125 million that will end when he’s 40, and it’s considered a “hometown discount.”

What would have happened if Boras told the Astros, “We’ll do the 5-year deal, but we want $130 million?”

Or $135 million? Or $140 million?

The Astros would have paid up. This wasn’t like two years ago when the Astros went to arbitration war over $2.5 million with budding superstar Kyle Tucker. The Astros won, got Tucker on the cheap that year. Tucker made no bones about feeling underpaid and unappreciated. It’s something that I’m guessing Tucker will throw back in the Astros faces when he approaches free agency after the 2025 season.

Of course it’s possible (likely) that the Astros will play rough with Tucker, and make only a half-hearted effort to keep him, like they did with George Springer, Justin Verlander, Carlos Correa, Gerrit Cole and other ghosts of Astros past. So far the Astros have successfully endured the departures. But at some point, like Jenga, lose one more piece and the Astros dynasty crumbles.

That piece never was going to be Altuve. The pint-sized second baseman held all the marbles against the Astros. Altuve isn’t just a great player – you can make a case he’s one of the greatest second basemen in baseball history – he is a bona fide hero in Houston. Fans don’t just cheer for Altuve, they adore him. Parents look at Altuve as a role model for their children. Little Leaguers can identify with Altuve because they’re little, too. How can you not love a superstar who says he gets up in the morning after night games and drives his daughters to school?

If the Astros had let Altuve slip through their fingers, they would have lost a generation of fans. They probably would lose a lot more games, too, especially this season when the American League West appears to be a horse race between the Astros, Rangers and Mariners. The Astros simply couldn’t afford to blow a deal with Altuve.

Now before we order Jose Altuve ornaments to put on top of our Christmas trees, it’s not like he took a vow of poverty to stay in Houston. Two years ago, crooks broke into his home and stole $1 million in jewelry. That’s not cubic zirconia from the Home Shopping Channel.

By the time this contract extension expires, Altuve will have earned more than $300 million over his career – the highest-paid second baseman in history.

And worth every damn penny.

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Cristian Javier is in better shape this season. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

As the Astros prepare to play their first game of spring training against the Nationals this Saturday, we're starting to see reports about how the players approached the offseason, and what tweaks they made to improve in the 2024 season.

Cristian Javier is a player Astros fans are hoping bounces back this year, as his ERA jumped from 2.54 in 2022 to 4.56 in 2023. Workload was thought to be one of the main factors causing his regression, he dealt with a dead arm last season and threw more innings than ever before (162).

Another explanation could be the pitch clock. This was another new element all pitchers had to deal with last year, and that also likely played a role in his struggles.

But according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome, Javier believes he was carrying some extra weight last season. Add that to some mechanical issues he was experiencing, and his struggles in 2023 make a lot more sense. And to be fair, he wouldn't be the first person to get a little fat and happy after winning a World Series.

In an effort to get back on track in 2024, Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. With the pitch clock not going anywhere, pitchers need to be in better cardiac shape than ever before.

Hopefully this modification helps Javier return to form and put up jaw-dropping numbers like he did in 2022. This rotation needs Javier to be the dominate pitcher we all know he's capable of being. With Justin Verlander behind schedule and Framber Valdez trying to bounce back from his own down year, Houston will depend on Javier like never before.

The Astros are certainly counting on it after giving him a 5-year, $64 million contract last season. Javier will definitely be a player to watch this spring.

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