5:37pm: Jeff Passan of ESPN has the financial breakdown (on Twitter). In addition to the $2MM signing bonus, Javier will make a $3MM salary for the upcoming season. That’ll be followed by successive salaries of $7MM in 2024, $10MM in 2025 and $21MM annually between 2026-27.
5:00pm: The Astros have signed starter Cristian Javier to a five-year contract extension, according to a club announcement. The right-hander will be guaranteed $64MM, reports Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). The deal, which buys out his three seasons of arbitration eligibility and two free agent years, contains a $2MM singing bonus. There are no options in the contract, according to Rome.
“Cristian is an outstanding pitcher, so we are really excited about signing him to a long-term deal,” first-year general manager Dana Brown said in the team’s press release. “We felt that he is the perfect candidate for this type of deal as a core piece of our rotation. This is in line with our vision to try to to lock players up to sustain our success both now and in the future.”
Javier, 26 next month, signed with the Astros as an 18-year-old out of the Dominican Republic during the 2015-16 signing period. Two years older than the typical international amateur acquisition, Javier received a very modest $10K bonus as an unheralded prospect. That he even made the majors given that modest starting point is a testament to his progression and the Astros’ strong pitcher development staff. Javier has performed at an above-average level from essentially day one, breaking in with 54 1/3 innings of 3.48 ERA ball during the shortened 2020 schedule.
It was a promising rookie showing in which Javier started 10 of first his 12 outings. He started his first nine outings of the following season but was kicked to the bullpen in late May thanks to the Astros’ starting pitching surplus. Javier thrived in relief, striking out 31.3% of opponents with a 3.93 ERA as a multi-inning weapon. That affirmed his ability to perform at a high-end level over a full season and put him in the mix for a potential move to the rotation.
That transition back to starting came last April. After three relief outings to start the year, Javier was moved back into the rotation as part of a six-man starting staff. He improved upon his strong first couple seasons, totaling 148 2/3 innings of 2.54 ERA ball. He fanned 33.2% of opposing hitters while generating swinging strikes on an excellent 13.8% of his overall offerings. Among 72 pitchers with 140+ innings, only Carlos Rodón and Shohei Ohtani racked up strikeouts more efficiently. Javier’s per-pitch whiff rate checked in 11th among that group.
Javier now carries a 3.05 ERA with a 30.9% strikeout percentage through 304 1/3 career innings of regular season action. That production was certainly eye-opening on its own, though he perhaps firmly put himself on the national radar last fall. Entrusted with a start in Game Four of the World Series with his club down 2-1, Javier outpitched Aaron Nola with six innings of no-hit ball and nine strikeouts. A trio of relievers closed out the second no-hitter in MLB postseason history and evened a series which Houston would go on to take in six games.
Obviously, Houston’s long-term belief in Javier goes well beyond that one performance. He’s among the game’s best young pitchers at missing bats. That’s been particularly true against right-handed batters, who have struck out in 36.6% of plate appearances while hitting .143/.231/.304 against him over his MLB career. Lefties have had a little more success, working walks at an 11.1% clip with a .212/.307/.369 line, but haven’t fared particularly well themselves.
The free passes against southpaws hint at fine but unexceptional control. Javier has walked 10.1% of opponents in his career and handed out free passes at a slightly higher than average 8.9% clip last season. He’s not a pinpoint control artist but has thrown more than enough strikes considering his ability to miss bats. He’s one of the sport’s more extreme fly-ball pitchers. That led to some home runs issues early in his career but wasn’t a problem in 2022, when he allowed just over one longball per nine innings. That was on the strength of a minuscule 9.1% HR/FB rate he’s not likely to sustain, and homer issues could be at least a modest concern moving forward.
Even if Javier doesn’t replicate a 2.54 ERA annually, his first couple seasons demonstrate he’s capable of keeping runs off the board with a few round-trippers mixed in. The Astros now have Javier and Lance McCullers Jr. signed for the extended future (McCullers through 2026, Javier through ’27). Framber Valdez is arbitration-eligible through 2025, as is Jose Urquidy. Luis Garcia has yet to reach arbitration and won’t hit free agency until following the 2026 campaign. Top prospect Hunter Brown, meanwhile, just reached the majors late last year and is controllable until at least the 2028-29 offseason.
More to come