The MLB hot stove has been hanging out on medium-low all offseason long, with infrequent bursts to high flame. Monday was a fairly high alert day with all the minor transactions across the league (the New York Yankees' trade for Caleb Ferguson being the headliner!), and Tuesday ended with a bang after a largely quiet morning and afternoon.
The Houston Astros and Jose Altuve agreed to a five-year, $125 million contract extension, which likely makes the pesky second baseman an Astro for life. Not only that, but any and all distractions about Altuve entering a contract year have dissipated.
Yankees fans, at the very least, hoped the uncertainty might impact the Astros' 2024 campaign. But somehow, another team-friendly extension will keep Altuve content and happy without busting Jim Crane's checkbook.
The hatred for Altuve in the Bronx runs deep, and the reality is that he was kind of always destined to remain an Astro, so whether it happened now or in November of 2024 didn't really matter. The nightnare was never expected to end.
But what makes matters worse is that Altuve's deal gives the Astros flexibility to keep their core together. Maybe they won't keep Alex Bregman at a premium after 2024 (he's now the lone high-profile Astro entering a contract year), but this will help them prioritize another slugger once believed to be a future Yankees target.
Kyle Tucker, who will probably be seeking a massive contract once he hits free agency after 2025, could now be a major focus of Houston's future plans.
Did Astros-Jose Altuve contract take Yankees out of the market for future free agent?
This is much farther down the road, but Tucker and the Astros agreed to a one-year, $12 million contract for 2024 to avoid arbitration, and will have one more go of it in 2025. After the two sides signed off on that seemingly generous number, it was already assumed work was being done behind the scenes to coax Tucker to stay. No issues on the arbitration front are usually a good sign.
But Altuve's contract details are generous and give the Astros more of an avenue with Tucker. Altuve will make $30 million from 2025-2027 and then $10 million from 2028-2029 (he also received a $15 million signing bonus). The Astros can backload a hypothetical Tucker contract and avoid stacking the high-paying years for the two stars on top of each other.
Nobody said it's going to be easy, but this undoubtedly helps. Tucker's ascension has coincided with a bit of a decline for Bregman, which perhaps makes the Astros' intentions more clear. Plus, they already got Bregman's prime years with a different team-friendly extension (five years and $100 million), and now the third baseman will hit free agency heading into his age-31 season.
Tucker's age-29 season will be the first after he's a free man, which isn't a deal breaker, but definitely makes him a more attractive extension candidate over Bregman. It also helps he's a lefty slugger and has consistently maintained impressive power numbers dating back to the shortened 2020 (his first "full" MLB season).
Just when we prematurely started pumping our fists because it was starting to look like the Astros might be blowing it this offseason and closing their championship window, they go ahead and sign Josh Hader and extend Altuve.
There's still plenty of work to be done to maintain the status quo in Houston, but Altuve was arguably the biggest hurdle. And with their 2026 payroll feautring only $66 million committed (with a maximum of $122 million), they may have just blocked the Yankees from pursuing Tucker and making a massive addition while subtracting from a hated rival.