Astros extend first baseman Yuli Gurriel’s contract following career-worst season

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Houston Astros

The Houston Astros are scheduled to kick off the postseason on Tuesday afternoon against the Minnesota Twins. Hours before first pitch, the Astros announced they had signed first baseman Yuli Gurriel to a one-year extension with a club option for the 2022 season. Gurriel, who was set to become a free agent after the season, will make $7.5 million guaranteed, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. That figure includes a $500,000 buyout in lieu of the club option.

Gurriel, 36, just wrapped up his fifth season in the majors, all of them spent with the Astros. Over that time, he’s hit .287/.324/.468 (111 OPS+) with 71 home runs and 9.3 Wins Above Replacement. It’s notable that Gurriel is coming off the worst year of his career. In 230 plate appearances, he recorded a 76 OPS+ and finished below Baseball Reference’s replacement level. It’s unclear if or how much the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal played into his previous production. Gurriel did, however, have one of the highest “bang” percentages on the roster, per independent analysis of their 2017 season.

Still, Gurriel’s underlying metrics suggest he was better than the topline results indicate. His exit velocity (89.3 mph) was identical to his 2019 mark, and his launch angle and contact rates were closer than not to his past figures. He’s still regarded as a good defensive first baseman, too. 

Even with Gurriel in tow, the Astros and general manager James Click will have more work to do this winter. Outfielders George Springer, Michael Brantley, and Josh Reddick are all set to hit the open market. The Astros are also unlikely to have starter Justin Verlander at their disposal until late next season at earliest after he underwent Tommy John surgery.

Gurriel originally joined the Astros in July 2016 after defecting from Cuba. At the time, he signed a five-year pact worth $47.5 million. 

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