Jose Altuve’s place among MLB second basemen; what will happen to Boras’ free agents?


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Jose Altuve and Bobby Witt Jr. have signed extensions, Scott Boras still has a roster of free agents and the turbulence around the A’s continues. I’m Levi Weaver here with Ken Rosenthal — welcome to the Windup!

Altuve’s extension, all-time earnings

Remember when some idiot suggested the Astros could, maybe, conceivably trade Jose Altuve this year if everything went wrong? Nope! He signed a five-year extension worth $125 million, presumably keeping the 33-year-old in Houston for the remainder of his career.

The long and short of it: Altuve wanted to stay in Houston and the team wanted to keep the future Hall of Famer. (Though owner Jim Crane’s quote — “We’re really looking forward to you ending your career in Houston, Texas” — felt … ominous?)

The extension runs from 2025 to 2029. As Chad Jennings writes, what happens in those years could cement him as the greatest second baseman of all time. At the very least, he’ll probably* be the highest-paid at the position; the contract will put him at $285,945,289 million in career earnings.

In case you were wondering, here’s a list of the career earnings (not adjusted for inflation) leaders by position through 2023 (some players played more than one position, so we went with the one they played most).

C: Joe Mauer — $218,025,000

1B: Miguel Cabrera — $400,410,623

2B: Robinson Canó — $214,691,403

SS: Alex Rodriguez — $399,285,104

3B: Adrián Beltré — $219,140,000 (will be surpassed by Anthony Rendon in 2025)

OF: Mike Trout — $245,017,833 ($480,440,125 by end of contract in 2030)

P: Justin Verlander — $360,848,333 ($429,254,888 by end of contract in 2025)

And of course, there’s Shohei Ohtani, who will climb to $742,269,259 (though he won’t get the last of it until 2043).

*Mookie Betts moved to second base this offseason. Including deferments, his contract, which runs through 2032, will bring him up to $425,634,598.

More Astros: Will they extend Alex Bregman next? Chandler Rome has a fairly definitive answer here.

Ken’s Notebook: Will Boras clients make bank?

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Cody Bellinger is one of five big-name Scott Boras free agents who don’t have a 2024 home — yet. (Jeff Curry / USA Today)

Whenever Scott Boras free agents linger on the market, people in baseball wonder whether the super-agent will get burned. It happens every so often. And considering that five top Boras clients remain unsigned with spring training nearing, the chances of all five getting “wow” deals seem remote.

Then again, underestimating Boras is dangerous, particularly when many clubs, notably the Cubs, Giants, Blue Jays and Angels, still appear capable of spending big. A surprise team or two (Red Sox, hello?) also could be lurking. So it’s entirely possible the Boras Five and a sixth prominent free agent, Jorge Soler (represented by Dan Lozano), will be handsomely paid.

For a reality check, however, let’s revisit the contract projections made by The Athletic’s Tim Britton at the start of the offseason for the six players in question. Tim’s numbers seem increasingly reasonable, if not quite as fanciful as the ones Boras and Lozano might envision for their respective clients.

  • Cody Bellinger, six years, $162 million
  • Blake Snell, five years, $135 million
  • Jordan Montgomery, five years, $105 million
  • Matt Chapman, five years, $95 million
  • Jorge Soler, three years, $45 million
  • J.D. Martinez, one year, $14 million

Is it still possible for one or more of those players to beat Tim’s projections? Of course. Snell and Montgomery, in particular, seem well-positioned for major scores. Distressing as this is to say, pitchers start getting hurt as soon as camps open, creating unexpected needs.

A month ago, Josh Hader did not seem to be on the Astros’ radar. Then the team announced Kendall Graveman would undergo shoulder surgery and miss the entire 2024 season. Three days later, Hader was an Astro, signed for five years and $95 million, a record present-day value for a reliever.

Snell and Montgomery easily could benefit from the same type of unfortunate circumstance. The hitters might find it more difficult. Bellinger, entering his age 28 season, still figures to command a long contract, most likely from the Cubs. Maybe Chapman, entering his age 31 season, is forced to accept a shorter term at a high annual salary. Maybe not.

Boras has proven over the years he will wait as long as possible for the right free-agent deal, even if his strategy occasionally results in clients getting less than their published projections. His confidence stems not only from the talent of his players but also the vulnerability he sees in flawed teams.

As often is the case late in the offseason, Boras seemingly has the entire sport on hold. The scoreboard watching is on. The staring matches continue.

Bobby Witt Jr. latest young star to commit

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Bobby Witt Jr. is the latest star-in-the-making to commit to his team long-term. (Michael Reaves / Getty Images)

It wasn’t just Altuve who got a big extension this week. The Royals have signed 23-year-old shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. to an 11-year extension worth a guaranteed $288.7 million, with player options after years seven to 10 followed by a three-year club option that could bring the total to 14 years and $377.7 million.

It’s part of a growing trend: locking down young players to extensions years before they’re set to hit free agency. Here are few notable recent examples (and their ages at the time).

• Corbin Carroll (22): Last March, the Diamondbacks inked Carroll to an eight-year, $111 million extension (which could include a ninth year for $23 million). He had played just 32 MLB games at the time but won the 2023 NL Rookie of the Year en route to Arizona’s World Series appearance.

• Julio Rodríguez (21): In August 2022, after just 240 games in the big leagues, Rodríguez signed a deal with the Mariners that could range from $210 million over 12 years to 17 years and $470 million, pending options/incentives.

• Fernando Tatis Jr. (22): Before spring training in 2021, the Padres inked Tatis (143 big league games) to a 14-year deal worth $340 million to keep the shortstop (now right fielder) in San Diego through 2034.

• Like, half of the Atlanta Braves: The Braves were kind of at the forefront of this wave (the Rays were also doing this with guys like Matt Moore and Evan Longoria more than a decade ago). Atlanta locked down stars Ronald Acuña Jr., Ozzie Albies and others to extensions well before they hit free agency.

And then there are the real outliers: Jackson Chourio (eight years, $82 million) of the Brewers and Colt Keith (up to eight years and $82 million) of the Tigers are the two latest prospects to sign extensions before their MLB debuts. They’re not the first, though: Seven players have signed such deals.

It’s risky, but — particularly for small-market teams — it makes sense to take a flier like this once in a while. Lock down your stars to keep them from migrating to a major market in free agency, then build around them.

For the player, it may mean less money in the long run, but it also means more guaranteed money now, and a financial safeguard in case of a career-ending injury.

A’s move is not thriving

You thought it couldn’t get more embarrassing than 50-112? Oof. Not only has a teachers union sued to block the Oakland Athletics’ new stadium deal in Las Vegas, but none other than Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman recently said she thinks the best move would be for the A’s and Oakland to resolve their differences and make up.

“I personally think (the A’s have) got to figure out a way to stay in Oakland to make their dream come true,” she said.

Well, then.

Goodman later clarified her comments, saying that Las Vegas would welcome the A’s. But it wasn’t a full retraction — she also said “the ownership and government (in Oakland) should listen to their great fans and try to make that dream come true.”

All of this after a scene that was so painfully awkward it could have come straight from “The Office.” At a Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce event, a speaker enthusiastically said “The Las Vegas A’s! We like the sound of that, right Vegas?” The crowd’s response: almost total silence.

What an unmitigated debacle.

Handshakes and High Fives

It’s still early, and there are a ton of logistics to iron out, but the idea of MLB players participating in the 2028 Olympics seems to be gaining steam.

Keith Law has his “just missed” list of 10 prospects who didn’t quite make the Top 100.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. won his arbitration case against the Blue Jays; he will make $19.9 million in 2024. Toronto had filed at $18.05 million.

In 2021, the Red Sox hired Bianca Smith as a minor-league coach. She was the first Black woman to coach in professional baseball history. Now she’s in Japan. What happened? (Speaking of the Red Sox, their 2024 season will be the subject of a Netflix documentary.)

Clayton Kershaw is going back to Los Angeles, with a player option for 2025. We have an excerpt from Andy McCullough’s new book, discussing the first time the Dodgers landed Kershaw.

More contract news, but not for players — the Rays announced Thursday that president of baseball ops Erik Neander and manager Kevin Cash have agreed to extensions.

Andrew Baggarly takes a crack at projecting Jung Hoo Lee’s first year stateside.

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(Top photo: Ron Jenkins / Getty Images)

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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