MVP Jose Altuve, Astros finalize $163.5M contract

File-This is a 2018 photo shows Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros baseball team. A person familiar with the negotiations says AL MVP Altuve and the World Series champion Astros have agreed to a contract that guarantees him an additional $151 million over five seasons from 2020-24. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Friday, March 16, 2018, because the agreement had not been announced. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)
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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Jose Altuve sat behind a table set up on the field at the Houston Astros’ spring training complex, and his teammates looked on as the World Series champions announced his $163.5 million, seven-year contract, the longest in team history.
“You made me more nervous, because I don’t like talking in front of a lot of people. You know that,” he said Houston finalized a deal Monday that guaranteed the AL MVP an additional $151 million over five seasons.

“Certainly a fan favorite. Our fans love Jose,” owner Jim Crane said. “Winner, MVP — what else can you say? He always leads by example. When I talk to the guys in the locker room, everybody is better
because of Jose, and he’s a great leader. So, Jose, you’re the heart of the team. We’re happy to have
you for the long-term.”

The 27-year-old second baseman had been among baseball’s best bargains. He agreed in 2013 to a
deal that originally guaranteed $12.5 million from 2014-17 and included club options for 2018 at $6
million and 2019 at $6.5 million. His new deal keeps those salaries and adds a $21 million signing bonus, of which $1 million is payable upon the deal’s approval by the commissioner’s office and $10 million each on July 1 in 2018 and 2019.

He gets annual salaries of $26 million from 2020-24. “This a very important day for me,” he said. “It was a priority, because that way it doesn’t take attention from the season.” Altuve would have been eligible for free agency after the 2019 season. The 5-foot-6 Altuve hit .346 last season to win his second straight AL batting title and third in four seasons. He had 24 homers, 82 RBIs and 32 stolen bases.

“There’s some stability that comes with writing Jose’s name in the lineup every single day,” manager A.J. Hinch said, “and to think that he’s going to be the franchise player for years to come is good for him, it’s good for the organization, it’s obviously good for me as a manager and most importantly is good for his teammates because he’s the most reliable player I’ve ever been around.”

After winning its first World Series title, Houston also hopes to reach more long-term deals. Pitcher
Dallas Keuchel and designatted hitter Evan Gattis are eligible for free agency after this season.
Houston added pitcher Justin Verlander for its stretch run last fall and Gerrit Cole in a trade during the
offseason. “We’d love to keep all the guys I’m looking at here for their entire careers,” general manager Jeff Luhnow said.

“Jim is committed to keeping the best team on the field for as long as possible and giving us a
chance to win multiple championships, and part of that is developing our own players and keeping our
own players and bringing in the right types of players. And we’ve done that. We’ll see what the future
holds but we certainly have a desire and an intention to keep our core together as long as possible.”