Regardless of whether there is a baseball season in 2020 or not, Yulieski Gurriel’s contract with the Astros will expire this year. The $47.5 million, five-year deal he signed in 2016 is coming to an end at the age of 36, when not many free agents find success in the market.
What will the Astros do with their current first baseman? Will the Cuban slugger be a victim of uncertainty? First, we need to get into history and take a look at the current circumstances at the same time.
The Astros have had no need to go after a bunch of free agents in recent seasons thanks to what has come up from the farm or via trades: Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, José Altuve, Yordan Álvarez, and company. But, indeed, that they haven’t been wide open about bringing big veterans aboard.
For example, since 2010, only three 36-year-old or older players have joined the team via free agency. Those are RHP Joe Smith (2 yrs/$8MM in 2019), DH Carlos Beltrán (1 yr/$16MM in 2016), and RHP Kyle Farnsworth (1 yr/$1.2MM) in 2014. So thinking about the Astros handing Gurriel a very lucrative new contract might be odd.
Houston might prefer extending Yuli. Why? First, they wouldn’t risk losing him to another team. Second, they could reach a win-win (or a team-friendly) deal with Gurriel. Third, it’ll probably take two years. Four, this will give the Astros time to find a young first baseman for the long term.
Re-signing Gurriel won’t be easy, either. Regular outfielders Josh Reddick, George Springer, and Michael Brantley are also in their walk year, though he could be the most affordable option.
The Astros front office will have tons of work to do in the short term, but keeping Yuli might be positive for them. At the end of the day, he’s gotten better year after year.
When you have on your team the kind of offensive order the Astros have, there’s a big chance that some players take a low profile. And that’s Gurriel’s case. Don’t you believe me? His numbers are comparable to David Ortiz’s in 2016 and yet no one is talking about that.
Besides slashing .298/.343/.541 in 612 plate appearances (144 games), the Cuban star hit 40 doubles and 31 home runs. He drove in 104 runs, registered 168 hits, and scored 85 times. In MLB history, there have only been two men with at least 40 two-baggers, 30 dingers, 100 ribbies, and a .290 batting average in a campaign from their 35-age season on. You guessed right: Gurriel and Ortiz.
What could probably help Yuli’s cause is that there won’t be many quality first basemen among free agents, at least for now. CJ Cron, Howie Kendrick, Neil Walker, and Ryan Zimmerman will be unemployed after 2020. Mitch Moreland, Anthony Rizzo, Carlos Santana, Daniel Murphy, and Edwin Encarnación could join them, though they all have contract options for 2021.
What would you do? Tell us in the poll below!
It’s your call: What do you do with Gurriel?
This poll is closed
Offer him a 1-year deal
Let him go
Offer him a 2-year deal