Astros second baseman shows how the Houston Astros have cashed in on his young talent.
It’s the 2011 season, and the Houston Astros make a rather bold move in promoting second baseman Jose Altuve from Double-A Corpus Christi. At the time of the promotion, Altuve had spent all of 35 games at that level.
It’s decision that the organization will never regret.
Better yet for the ‘Stros is the value they have received since that promotion. That’s growing to be their thing. Look…
* – taken from Fangraphs. Values represented in millions.
** – estimated for ’11 season based on half of MLB minimum salary of $414k
Side note here. Sometimes when we talk of a player’s value, we look strictly at the stats as I will be doing here. What gets lost is the value a player may hold in other areas such as the national attention he brings the team or how active he is within the local community. Those are items that cannot be as easily measured.
This season commences an extension that Altuve inked in July of 2013. The terms (per Cot’s Contracts) goes as follows:
14:$1.25M, 15:$2.5M, 16:$3.5M, 17:$4.5M, 18:$6M club option, 19:$6.5M club option
As you can see, I have included this season within the table above. Looking at this year alone, you can see that Altuve has already performed to the terms of the extension and even more. There’s more.
But in baseball, it seems that players get paid, in many respects, based on how they have performed in the past. There is the hope that the production can be, at least, maintained from the previous years as they go forward on their careers.
In Altuve’s case, that shouldn’t be a stretch. He’s only 24 years old, and while his 2014 season has been the “breakout” of all breakouts, it is hard to imagine that he wouldn’t perform at a level somewhere in between this season and his season of 2012. Even if it would fall in that area, it would still be a tremendous value (and return) for the team.
It’s not a rarity that talented young player’s “outperform” their salary during their pre-arbitration years. Another example of this for 2014 is that of Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier (FG value of $18.9M; 2014 salary of $600k). That’s even a better value than Altuve.
You could also see cases for players continuing that trend during their arbitration years as well.
Back to Jose Altuve here. What about the next three seasons, 2015-17?
If Altuve never takes the field again, he has still delivered a superb value to the Houston organization. This could be viewed as a return over 250%. Yes, 250%! And it could continue to increase even more. If the club elected to pick up the options for 2018 and 2019, all he would likely have to do is provide a fWAR slightly higher than 1.0.
And Altuve might not be the last young player the team sees performing well and delivering a fantastic value. Jon Singleton could be the next in line here. While his 2014 has seen it’s struggles (FG value of -$2.2M), the club inked Singleton to a five-year, $10 million deal upon his promotion. Those terms:
14: $1.5M, 15-18: $2M, 19: $2.5M (club option with $500k buyout), 20: $5M (club option with $250k buyout), 21: $13M (club option with $250k buyout)
It shouldn’t surprise anyone if the Astros continue to negotiate similar deals for more of their young talent that hasn’t been as highly touted and/or drafted as high as the likes Carlos Correa and Mark Appel. In fact, we can see a fair number of such deals rise across the board as teams look to achieve similar returns as well.
Of course, that will depend on the player and his agent.
Considering all the recent to-do about how the Astros handled the negotiations with this year’s 1-1 pick Brady Aiken and the “handling” of last year’s 1-1, the aforementioned Appel, maybe seeing this “return” from Altuve (and maybe even Singleton in the future) can give the entire front office a reason to sport a slight grin.