Following the 2021 regular season, the Houston Astros picked up a club option to retain Yuli Gurriel for one more year. With a Batting Title and a Gold Glove for first base in his best season yet, the 37-year-old was locked for a seventh major-league season.
Coming onto the scene late, Gurriel knew a long-career wasn’t on his plate after signing with the Astros. While bumped from the All-Star game in 2021 due to a stacked class, Gurriel’s career isn’t set to decline in what could be his final year in Astros’ uniform.
This offseason, Gurriel removed foods like soda and pizza from his diet, leading to a more leaned Gurriel entering camp this spring. With a shortened amount of games, we didn’t see much of the first baseman to open March, but as of Sunday, the right-hander has three no-doubt home runs in the past week.
Spring training performances don’t always correlate to a monstrous start to the regular season with centerfielder Myles Straw being an example from 2021, but Gurriel’s case is different. He is not fighting for a starting job; he is an experienced first baseman, trying to build a case for a short extension.
The Astros don’t have a top-prospect waiting on Gurriel to retire or depart; they have players like Taylor Jones and Joe Perez on the 40-man roster, who will be minor-league depth throughout the season when called upon.
Yuli Gurriel won’t cost much to retain, and the Astros should evaluate the first baseman as an option for 2023.
Gurriel doesn’t have a lingering history of injuries plaguing his game, and with a deep appreciation from the Cuban prospects, Gurriel should be a member of the organization beyond his major-league career.
According to Baseball Savant, Gurriel, at 37-years-old, saw some of his best hitting percentages since the 2017 season. The righty was in the top-two percentage of K%, while also having a 9.8 BB% — his highest of his career.
While a disciplined hitter, batting average doesn’t always justify the best hitter in baseball, but it shows how much Gurriel contributes to a loaded lineup in a sixth or seventh spot.
There is 162 games of evaluation for the Astros, and if the future at first base isn’t Jones or Perez, Gurriel could continue his reliability into an eighth season in Houston and see what other prospects like Norel Gonzalez have to offer.
While Jason Castro considers retirement, Gurriel may have more left in the tank with his improvements to keep his career alive for another season. If his production doesn’t waver, why not offer a one-year extension?
In the latest roster cuts, the Astros optioned Forrest Whitley and reassigned Hunter Brown and Jon Olczak to the minor leagues. Regarding Sunday’s lineup, Yordan Alvarez was scratched for a “personal matter,” Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle reports.
Rome also reported that Framber Valdez will start Monday against the Cardinals, and Justin Verlander will start Monday against the Nationals.
Former Astros executive, Kevin Goldstein, returns to baseball with the Minnesota Twins, after contributing at FanGraphs.