The Astros renegotiated Yuli Gurriel‘s salary for the 2020 season.
In what will be his final year before free agency, Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel will earn $8.3 million, a slight raise from the $8 million he had previously been slated to earn. He can earn an additional $250,000 in bonuses as well.
Under the terms of the original five-year deal he signed in 2016, Gurriel will become a free agent after 2020 even though he would technically be arbitration-eligible. He will turn 36 years old next June, and thus will be at an age where multi-year deals are hard to come by.
Still, he put up his best season yet at age 35, mashing to the tune of a .298/.343/.541 line with 31 homers, 40 doubles and 104 RBIs. He also improved his defense so much that he led AL first basemen in fielding percentage and was named a finalist for the Gold Glove Award.
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For now, Gurriel will be the team’s first baseman for 2020. What happens after that is up in the air at this point. The Astros will have several players hitting free agency after 2020, including George Springer, Michael Brantley and Jake Marisnick. There’s no telling if they’ll have the payroll space for Gurriel.
Since they traded Seth Beer in the Zack Greinke deal, the club doesn’t have a top first base prospect coming up the pipeline just yet. It’s possible they could mold Yordan Alvarez into a serviceable first baseman, but his experience is more in the outfield.
So as long as Gurriel doesn’t crater next season, it’s entirely possible the Astros will look to re-sign him for a year or two. If he can produce at the plate and play solid defense, there are plenty worse options available.
Plus, Gurriel has been a key clutch hitter in the Astros lineup. He seems to have a knack for coming up with timely hits, and that’s a skill you can’t really teach. If the team is comfortable that he can age well, there could be a continuation of the marriage beyond 2020.
For now, though, the move gives the club a little more clarity as to their payroll situation. Jeff Luhnow and his staff will attempt to augment the pitching staff and figure out the catching situation all while being cognizant of the luxury tax threshold. Stay tuned.