Gurriel, Marlins reach minor league deal
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Yuli Gurriel’s Astros tenure is officially over. The beloved first baseman and clubhouse cornerstone reached an agreement with the Miami Marlins on a minor league contract on Thursday, a person with knowledge of the deal said.
Gurriel’s deal with the Marlins includes an invitation to major league spring training. The 38-year-old first baseman should have a real chance to break camp on Miami’s opening day roster.
That Gurriel stayed without a job until early March is indicative of how the industry viewed his sharp decline last season. Gurriel won the American League batting title in 2021, but slashed just .242/.288/.360 in 584 regular-season plate appearances last season.
Gurriel hit .347 during the Astros’ playoff run, but injured his knee during Game 5 of the World Series and could not appear in Game 6. After the Astros won it, Gurriel called his Houston tenure “the best seven years of my life” and said he wished to return. José Abreu’s addition in December all but signaled the end of Gurriel’s time in Houston.
A member of Cuban baseball royalty and considered one of the country’s greatest players, Gurriel defected in 2016 and signed a five-year, $47.5 million contract with the Astros. He debuted later that year and finished fourth in American League Rookie of the Year voting during his first full season in 2017, one he finished by catching the final out of Houston’s first-ever World Series win.
Though he played second and third base for most of his international career, Gurriel made a seamless transition to first for the Astros, cementing himself as one of the sport’s premier defenders and best pure hitters. Gurriel won a Gold Glove in 2021 and hit .290 or better during four of his five 162-game seasons.
Gurriel’s infectious smile and signature hairdo endeared him to Houston’s fanbase throughout his tenure. His “La Piña” nickname became household, even prompting some fans to sport pineapple hats or glasses to show support.
Gurriel’s departure means Jose Altuve, Lance McCullers Jr. and Alex Bregman are the only Astros left from the franchise’s first World Series team in 2017.
Altuve has ‘fun’ in Venezuela exhibition
Altuve’s first game against the Astros on Wednesday featured him in vintage form — for better and worse. He seemed downright giddy during the entire evening, which evolved into a almost a four-hour lovefest from two sets of adoring fans.
“It’s an honor for me. I’m very proud and I’m really excited to represent my country,” Altuve said before Team Venezuela’s 9-8 win against the Astros, “… but it’s going to be weird.”
One act removed any awkwardness. Altuve ambled to the plate before his first at-bat to a raucous ovation. Altuve waved toward the first-base dugout, where manager Dusty Baker, bench coach Joe Espada and a handful of Astros applauded to salute their All-Star second baseman.
“I asked him right before the first pitch how he felt,” said Venezuela manager Omar López, the Astros’ first-base coach. “He said ‘I don’t know, but I’m having fun.’ ”
Altuve dug into the batter’s box and stared toward Brandon Bielak, perhaps the only Astros pitcher who will ever be asked to get Altuve out. Earlier this spring, the face of Houston’s franchise said he hopes to retire an Astro. If owner Jim Crane and general manager Dana Brown fulfill Altuve’s wishes, Wednesday will be a once-in-alifetime experience.