Mauricio Dubon emerges victorious in arbitration battle with Astros

The Astros' only arbitration hearing of the year did not go their way.
Championship Series - Houston Astros v Texas Rangers - Game Four
Championship Series - Houston Astros v Texas Rangers - Game Four / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages

When the Houston Astros lost Jose Altuve for a chunk of the 2023 season after he suffered a broken thumb in the World Baseball Classic, it could have been a disaster for a team that had World Series aspirations. While Houston tried out a few different infield options in Altuve's absence with varying amounts of success, no player stepped up more than Mauricio Dubon.

A part-time player for most of his career, Dubon was pressed into service and excelled in 2023 with a .278/.309/.411 line in 467 plate appearances, 10 homers, and a Gold Glove in the field. It isn't hyperbole to suggest that the only reason that the Astros were in a position to win the division last year at all was because of how well he played, especially when Altuve was out.

Going into the offseason, Dubon was set to enter his second year of arbitration and was the only Houston player that failed to settle on an arbitration figure ahead of the deadline to do so. The Astros filed at $3 million, while Dubon's ask was $3.5 million.

Luckily for Dubon, he won his arbitration case on Tuesday and will be paid his $3.5 million asking price for 2024.

Mauricio Dubon wins arbitration case, but the Astros need to find a long-term solution

Filing figures can be somewhat misleading. While a $500K gap between the Astros and Dubon may seem trivial to outsiders and can appear as though one side or the other was being petty, the truth is that sides officially file at figures that they think they can win in a hearing. It is likely that one or both sides were actually pulling for different amounts during negotiations than the numbers that they actually filed for.

Given Dubon's performance last year and the relatively low amount he was asking for as a second-year arbitration player, he was a pretty heavy favorite to win from the beginning. Winning a Gold Glove and posting 2.7 rWAR in the year before his hearing was pretty much always going to be rewarded by the arbitrator, unless Dubon was asking for a particular large sum (which he was not). Now that the arbitration process is done with, Houston needs to move past it and work out something long-term with Dubon.

Given that Alex Bregman is set to walk in free agency after the 2024 season and Altuve may need to be spelled from time to time over the course of his shiny new five-year extension, Dubon is the perfect fit for an Astros team that needs a strong utility infielder on their bench. He may not walk enough or impact the ball enough to be an everyday player, he still is a really valuable piece of an Astros' roster that could need a strong backup plan as their infield continues to change and get older in the coming years.

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