Altuve on storied career with Astros: 'I hope to retire here'
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Astros general manager Dana Brown said last week he believes star second baseman Jose Altuve and star third baseman Alex Bregman should retire having worn only one uniform. In the case of Altuve, the feeling is mutual.
Upon arriving at camp on Sunday afternoon at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, Altuve said he would like to finish his career in Houston. Altuve is one of the most popular players in franchise history. He's made eight All-Star teams, he won the 2017 American League Most Valuable Player and he was a catalyst on two World Series championship teams.
The contracts of Altuve and Bregman expire after the 2024 season, which leaves them with two years remaining before hitting free agency. Altuve has already signed two contract extensions to remain in Houston -- including a five-year, $150 million deal in '18 -- and one more would likely take the 32-year-old to the end of his storied career.
"I liked when he said that," Altuve said of Brown’s comments. "Obviously, I’ve spent my whole career here and hope to retire here. I think we are on the same page."
Brown, who was hired last month, has made it no secret that he plans to try to keep the Astros' core together. He’s already signed starting pitcher Cristian Javier to a five-year, $64 million extension and has said he wants to lock up Altuve, Bregman, All-Star left-hander Framber Valdez and All-Star right-fielder Kyle Tucker.
"I’m happy for the young talent we have coming up," Altuve said.
Altuve had a tremendous 2022 season, hitting .300 with 28 homers, 57 RBIs, 103 runs and 18 steals, but he hit just .190 (11-for-58) in the playoffs with no RBIs. Still, a glance at the Astros’ all-time offensive stats shows Altuve and Hall of Famers Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell as the most accomplished offensive players in franchise history. Altuve ranks first in batting average (.307), third in doubles (379), fourth in runs (986) and hits (1,935) and fifth in games played (1,578) and homers (192).
"The face of the franchise," veteran catcher Martín Maldonado said. "I walked into today and I said I couldn’t believe that little guy is one of the best hitters in the game. If somebody’s walking in the mall and sees Altuve walking, [if you] don’t know anything about baseball, you wouldn’t have thought that guy is the face of the franchise for the Houston Astros. Nobody would’ve thought that. That guy has a chance to get 3,000 hits. Like I told him today, 'I think you’re gonna go back to hitting .320, .330.' Now he’s hitting for power. He’s getting better every year."
Altuve returned to his native Venezuela this winter for the first time since the offseason following the 2017 campaign -- also a year in which the Astros won the World Series. He spent a month and a half in his homeland and visited family while laying low on the beaches and in the mountains. Next month, he’ll represent Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.
"I’m really excited to get to represent my country," Altuve said. "I’ve got to get ready for that and play good. We have a great team, but also [we will] play some great teams, like the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico in our great group. It’s not going to be easy."
Altuve knows all about challenges. He’s the only member of the franchise to endure three consecutive 100-loss seasons and hang around long enough to bask in the glow of six consecutive trips to the ALCS, five division titles in six years and two World Series titles. Altuve, Bregman and pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. are the only remaining Astros from the 2017 championship club.
As he looks around the clubhouse, Altuve sees younger stars like shortstop Jeremy Peña and new faces like first baseman José Abreu. The names change, but the expectations remain the same. And that will be true for as long as Altuve remains in Houston.
"There’s still a little bit of conversation about what we did last year, but I really think in two more weeks we’re going to focus 100 percent on this year," he said. "What we did last year is amazing. Obviously, everybody wants to win a World Series. It’s not [like] we’re going to forget about it, but we’re going to put it aside a little bit to get ready and prepare the way we would and try to make it happen again this year."