Hours before a World Series victory parade, the Astros decide to exercise contract options on two of their best players from this most recent season. A championship season.
Look, the Astros are going to celebrate hard for a while. They deserve to celebrate like there is no tomorrow. Winning their first World Series title while beating baseball royalty is something worth cherishing.
But the Astros’ front office won’t make that an excuse on why business can’t get done. Take the news from late Friday morning as an example.
The Astros locked up two important players in Jose Altuve and Marwin Gonzalez by exercising the club options on their contracts. And who wouldn’t? Altuve is scheduled to make only $6 million and Gonzalez only $5.125 million. That’s good value right there. Baseball economics 101.
Of course, Altuve was never going to have his option turned down. $6 million for the hopeful 2017 AL MVP in 2018? There are 29 other franchises who would take that deal in a heartbeat. The only ways the Astros weren’t going to pick up the option on Altuve was if the end of the world was occurring or sabotage.
In the case of Gonzalez, well, that wasn’t always a sure-fire option to be exercised. Prior to his incredible 2017 season when the Astros’ super-utility player posted an 144 wRC+ and 4.1 WAR, Gonzalez had a career average 90 wRC+ and 2.0 WAR for his entire career. Odds are that Houston’s front office would’ve exercised his option even if his 2017 numbers were close to his career averages. Gonzalez’s versatility in the field is a desirable trait despite a decline in defensive metrics in recent seasons.
In terms of value, the Astros did quite well in 2017 and the hope is the same in 2018.
Fangraphs has a metric that converts WAR into how much yearly salary that player would earn on the open market based on that value. Now, this figure isn’t used to determine future value. Rather it is used to illustrate how much that player was truly worth in a particular season based on what the market pays for wins. For example, Gonzalez in 2017 was worth $32.5 million. He actually made $3.1 million. Now is this saying that Gonzalez is worth $32.5 million per season? No. But the WAR-to-Dollar metric is simply stating how much Gonzalez’s production in 2017 was truly worth.
How about Altuve, the presumptive AL MVP? Well, his WAR-to-Dollar figure in 2017 was $60.1 million. Like Gonzalez, Altuve is probably not worth $60 million per season. That’s unrealistic in today’s baseball. But his production in 2017 was worth that much based on his Wins Above Replacement and what the market pays for wins.
Overall, the Astros found tremendous value from Altuve and Gonzalez in 2017. Without their contributions, the Astros wouldn’t be hosting a World Series parade in downtown Houston. These contract options being exercised were no-brainers for 2018.
**Statistics and information courtesy of Fangraphs**