What will it take for Astros to extend Alex Bregman’s contract?

What will it take for Astros to extend Alex Bregman’s contract?

Houston’s third baseman will command quite the market if he enters free agency next winter.

ARLINGTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 19: Alex Bregman #2 of the Houston Astros walks through the dugout in the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers during Game Four of the Championship Series at Globe Life Field on October 19, 2023 in Arlington, Texas.

Jose Altuve could very likely receive a contract extension from the Houston Astros this winter. Framber Valdez and Kyle Tucker almost assuredly will not. Will Alex Bregman strike a deal to stick with the franchise long-term? That remains something of an open question.

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Bregman is the most interesting of the Astros’ potential extension candidates entering this winter given his age, recent performance and likely future earnings. He will be 31 on Opening Day of the 2024 season, though he still stands as one of the most consistent infield bats in the sport. Perhaps Bregman won’t match the massive contracts nearing $400 million we’re now seeing populate the sport, though his price tag will likely outpace the $150 million team owner Jim Crane wasn’t comfortable giving George Springer after the 2020 season. With Bregman just one season away from free agency, his contract status could emerge as the central storyline of Houston’s winter.

So how exactly should we project a potential contract for Houston’s anchor at the hot corner for 2024 and beyond? Let’s dive into some recent contracts across baseball to find a deal.

He won’t get that much, will he?

Manny Machado: 11-years, $350 million (2023-33)

The production between Machado and Bregman dating back to 2017 are rather similar, with Bregman actually sporting a better on-base percentage and OPS mark. I’d still be shocked if Bregman comes within even $50 million of Machado’s $350 million. The Padres of the last two seasons were an outlier across the sport, spending big money on position-player stars unlike any team in recent memory. Machado hit 30 home runs last season, but also posted his worst OPS (a rather middling .782) since his second MLB season. The return on San Diego’s investment to date won’t exactly help Bregman’s case either with Houston or on the open market.

Nolan Arenado: 9 years, $275 million (2019-27)

Arenado signed his contract extension with the Colorado Rockies and was then subsequently traded to the St. Louis Cardinals, where he’s been rather excellent with 90 homers, three All-Star appearances and his usual defensive excellence on the hot corner across the last three seasons. The two players are perhaps something of a sensible comparison to one another. Both Arenado and Bregman are fierce competitors and defensive stars, and offensively, they maximize power output with an emphasis on pulling the ball.

I’m not sure if Arenado’s offensive output will ever reach his 40-homer, 130-RBI peaks in Colorado. I also don’t know if Bregman will ever again be a top-five MVP finisher. But both players are better than the sum of their parts. Bregman probably won’t reach $275 million in his next contract. He’s still likely a wise investment for any contending club.

Likely comparisons 

Anthony Rendon: 7 years, $245 million (2020-26)

Unlike Arenado, Rendon hasn’t exactly made good on the Angels’ spending thus far. He’s logged just 200 games across four seasons with Los Angeles to date, sporting a rather middling .758 OPS with just 22 home runs. Still, I wouldn’t take Rendon’s struggles as some sign not to extend Bregman. Consider this an unrelated incident.

Carlos Correa: 6 years, $200 million (2023-28)

In a scenario largely unthinkable from 2017-21, Bregman may actually land a larger contract than the $200 million Correa signed for to stick with the Minnesota Twins through 2028. Bregman’s traditional counting stats continue to outpace Correa, and even despite some hand and wrist ailments in 2023, Bregman sports a far cleaner bill of health than his former infield counterpart. This is no guarantee, but I’ll go out on (perhaps) something of a limb here and project a contract for Bregman surpassing $200 million.

Kris Bryant: 7 years, $182 million (2022-28)

Bryant fits into the Rendon realm to a degree, though Colorado’s decision looks even more foolish given Bryant’s past extensive injury history and his more middling power production before signing with the hitter’s haven that is Coors Field. Yet like Rendon, using Bryant as some cudgel against Bregman makes little sense.

Marcus Semien: 7 years, $175 million (2022-28) 

Want a recent example of a big-money contract that paid off? Well, how about the recent reigning champions.

Semien inked a mega-deal with the Texas Rangers alongside middle-infield mate Corey Seager before the 2022 season, and in 2023, he logged a third-place MVP finish before making major contributions in the ALCS and World Series. Like Bregman, Semien isn’t the most athletically-gifted star. Rather, he’s something of a technician, one who has reached the height of his sport through constant dedication. I wouldn’t bet against a player of Semien’s makeup. Bregman fits a similar mold.

A note of caution

Perhaps you may balk at the likelihood of a $200-plus million deal for a player in his 30s, but given Bregman’s history and the current financials of the sport, such a deal is well within the realm of possibility. And while the Astros were able to rather seamlessly replace Springer and Correa, don’t expect them to do the same with Bregman. This is a player who has the heartbeat of his clubhouse, an intense competitor with a penchant for delivering in the postseason.

Barring an Altuve exit, seeing Bregman leave after 2023 would be the most jarring departure of this dynasty to date.

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