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Could Astros follow Jose Altuve extension with a long-term deal for Alex Bregman? What contract may look like

With spring training a week away, the Houston Astros took care of a very piece of important 2024 business Tuesday. The Astros signed franchise player Jose Altuve to a five-year, $125 million contract covering the 2025-29 seasons. It will take him through age 39 and ensure Altuve makes a run at 3,000 hits in an Astros uniform.

Altuve was scheduled to become a free agent after the 2024 season and he was not the only prominent Astro heading into his contract year. Third baseman Alex Bregman is also set to hit free agency after the coming season, and with Altuve locked up, GM Dana Brown figures to shift his focus to Bregman, and try to make sure his left side of the infield retire together.

“We’ll certainly visit with Bregman when the time comes,” owner Jim Crane told MLB.com Tuesday when asked about future extensions.

Bregman, 30 in March, slashed .292/.363/.441 with 25 home runs and more walks (92) than strikeouts (87) in 161 games in 2023. His production, while still excellent, has been down the last three years relative to his 2018-19 efforts. From 2018-19, Bregman authored a .291/.409/.561 line with 72 homers and considerably more walks (215) than strikeouts (168).

Those 2018-19 seasons coincide with a record number of home runs hit league-wide, possibly because the ball was juiced, and yes, they also coincide with Houston’s sign-stealing scandal. Bregman was an MVP-caliber player in 2018 (fifth in the voting) and 2019 (second in the voting). From 2021-23, he’s been closer to All-Star caliber, which, again, is still excellent.

Bregman, like Altuve, is a Scott Boras client. Boras typically takes his top clients out into free agency, though Altuve passed up free agency to sign an extension (twice), and so did Lance McCullers Jr., another Astro. The Astros don’t extend everyone (Carlos Correa, George Springer, and others left as free agents), but they have had success getting Boras clients to stick around.

Bregman will be 31 on Opening Day 2025, the first year of his next contract. Here are the largest contracts given to infielders entering their age-31 season:

Signed Years Dollars Contract Type

Robinson Canó, Mariners

December 2013

10

$240M

Free agent

Marcus Semien, Rangers

November 2021

7

$175M

Free agent

José Ramírez, Guardians

April 2022

5

$124M

Extension

David Wright, Mets

December 2012

7

$122M

Extension

Evan Longoria, Rays

November 2012

6

$100M

Extension

The Wright and Longoria contracts were signed so long ago that they aren’t particularly relevant to Bregman. The Ramírez contract is a steal and Boras isn’t known for giving bargains. Semien is a reasonable benchmark for a Bregman extension, though Bregman has a longer track record as an elite player. Semien didn’t really hit his stride until his age-28 season in 2019.

Canó signed his deal over a decade ago, but because it is the record guarantee for an infielder Bregman’s age, that’s the number Boras likely has in mind. Bregman’s current contract will pay him $28.5 million in 2024 and he’s a $30 million-a-year player. Eight years at $30 million beats Semien’s contract and matches Canó’s $240 million guarantee across fewer years.

Eight years at $30 million a pop could be what it takes to get Boras and Bregman to pass up free agency after the season. Should the Astros do it? Kyle Tucker and Framber Valdez are both two years away from free agency, so the Astros have to start thinking about extensions for them too. Bregman’s next contract figures to include several decline years. That’s a bit scary.

Zach Dezenzo and Will Wagner, Houston’s top two third base prospects, are hitters first and defenders second, and it’s not certain either will stick at third base long-term. Utility players like Mauricio Dubón, David Hensley, and Grae Kessinger are, well, utility players, and best used in moderation. None would be an adequate replacement for Bregman at third base.

Next offseason’s third base free-agent class is scheduled to include J.D. Davis, Brandon Drury, and Yoán Moncada in addition to Bregman. Other free agent infielders like Willy Adames and Gleyber Torres could be third base candidates, though it is not their natural position. Point is, the internal and external options to replace Bregman are limited. That factors into the extension calculus.

Altuve’s situation and Bregman’s situation are very different. Altuve is entering the final season of the extension that bought out his prime years. His next extension covers the tail end of his career. Bregman is still in his prime, and he and Boras will expect to be paid accordingly. And, frankly, they are likely seeking the kind of contract Astros owner Jim Crane has avoided.

For now, the Astros have Altuve through 2029 and Bregman only through 2024. They know they have at least one more year with their star left side of the infield. Bregman is more likely to test free agency than Altuve ever was, and given Crane’s tendency to avoid large free agent deals, Bregman’s next contract very well could come from a new team next offseason.

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