Report: Astros sign Jose Altuve to contract extension

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The Astros have successfully locked up a potential long-term building block, as Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reports that they have agreed to a contract extension with second baseman Jose Altuve. This marks the first major contract commitment under the leadership of general manager Jeff Luhnow, who was hired in December of 2011.

No word yet on the financial details, but the deal is expected to be announced later today. Altuve wasn’t due to become arbitration-eligible for the first time until after the 2014 season. McTaggart speculates that the extension will at least cover his arbitration years, though it’s possible the Astros also bought out a free agent year or two.

Altuve was promoted to the majors in July of 2011 and owns a .284/.325/.377 batting line through 290 career games. The 23-year-old represented the Astros in the All-Star Game last year.

UPDATE: CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that Altuve will receive a five-year deal with an option. This means the Astros bought out his final pre-arbitration season, all three of his arbitration seasons, and at least one year of free agency.

UPDATE II: Heyman is now reporting that it’s a four-year deal (covering his final pre-arbitration season and all three of his arbitration seasons) with two option years. Altuve will receive $12.5 million guaranteed. Even though he doesn’t fall under the category of a star, that’s a very reasonable contract.

Rays stadium project dead, team stuck in Tropicana Field until 2027

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LAS VEGAS — Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg appeared at the Winter Meetings a few minutes ago and said that the project which was intended to result in a new ballpark for the team in Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa has fallen apart. No new ballpark will be built and the three-year window granted to the team by the City of St. Petersburg to negotiate for a new ballpark will come to a close without any deal. The Tampa Bay Rays appear to be stuck in Tropicana Field through 2027.

Sternberg’s statement came mere hours after it was reported that Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred sent a sternly-worded letter to Hillsborough County officials, blasting the framework for the deal for the new stadium in Ybor City, saying it lacked specifics and criticized “the actual level commitment” from the public side. It’s not unreasonable to read that as the Commissioner’s dissatisfaction with how much public money the County was pledging to complete the project. Sternberg said just now that “we were not close to a workable framework.”

In his comments this morning Sternberg noted that the Rays had worked “for ten years” to get a new stadium and that they’d continue to try to work to that end, but the team’s options are extremely limited. The Rays are party to what has been described as an iron-clad lease for Tropicana Field, lasting through 2027. Until three years ago the Rays were  prohibited from even talking to anyone about building a new ballpark outside of St. Petersburg. In December 2015 St. Pete granted the team a window to negotiate with Hillsborough County which Sternberg called “very generous.” It is now closing, however, and Sternberg said that there are no plans to ask St. Petersburg officials for a new one.

Which means that the Rays are likely stuck in Tropicana Field through 2027. While Sternberg talked of being creative and searching for any and all available options, he likewise said that “we need to figure out where the 2028 season will be played.”