The Houston Astros signed first baseman Yuli Gurriel to a contract extension.
The offseason hasn’t officially begun for the Houston Astros, but GM James Click just made his first big move since taking over the front office. The team announced that first baseman Yuli Gurriel has agreed to a contract extension, meaning he won’t reach free agency this winter as had been expected.
The extension is for one year and contains a club option for 2022. Gurriel, 36, will take home a base salary of $6.5 million in 2021, and the 2022 option is for $8 million with a $500,000 buyout. So Gurriel will be guaranteed at least $7 million under this deal, and has the opportunity to earn up to $2 million more through performance bonuses.
Gurriel is making the prorated portion of his $8.4 million salary in 2020 after earning more than $10 million in each of the previous three years. He had a career-best season in 2019 with 31 home runs and 104 RBIs while also being named a finalist for the Gold Glove award at first base. Through parts of five seasons with the Astros, he’s hit .287/.324/.468 with 135 doubles, 71 homers and 301 RBIs.
The 2020 season hasn’t ended well for him, however. He hit .305/.346/.558 in August but slumped to an awful .154/.168/.209 line in September, which may have partially been due to a hand injury. Overall, his .232/.274/.384 line with six homers and 22 RBIs in 57 games would have hampered his ability to get a hefty multi-year deal in free agency.
What It Means
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For Gurriel, it means he gets to stay in Houston, which he’s been vocal about wanting to do. The Astros are the only major league team he’s played for after he defected from Cuba in 2016. He’s clearly felt at home in Houston and now gets to stay for at least another year.
For the Astros, the signing fills a hole on the 2021 roster and answers a major offseason question. If Gurriel had entered free agency, rookie Taylor Jones would have been the next man up. Jones has some talent but is hardly a proven commodity, so the front office has ensured its veteran first baseman will be back on a relatively team-friendly deal.
It also signals the Astros intend to compete in 2021 rather than retool or rebuild as some have suggested. With Gurriel in the fold, Click can turn his attention to George Springer and Michael Brantley, both of whom are impending free agents as well. For his first big move as head of the team’s baseball operations, this looks like a pretty good one.
If Gurriel can bounce back from his rough September, he should make good on this deal. Even if he doesn’t hit at quite the same level as he did in 2019, he should provide a decent bat and solid defense at a position that might have been a weakness without him. The team, the fans and Gurriel himself should all be happy with this deal.