On the day he and the team finalized a $115 million, six-year contract, general manager James Click spoke about how much more they expect the slugger to do for this franchise.
"A cornerstone player," Click said. "It allows us to build the roster around him, build a lineup around him. And that sort of security, both for him and for us as we continue to try to compete for World Series championships is huge, knowing that we're going to have a player of that caliber anchoring our lineup for the foreseeable future."
The contract covers 2023 through 2028. The 24-year-old has a one-year deal for 2022 calling for $764,600 while in the major leagues and $304,500 should he be assigned to the minors.
"There's a lot of hard work that's gone into it and seeing the fruits of the labor really means a lot," Álvarez said in Spanish through an interpreter.
His deal announced Monday calls for a $5 million signing bonus payable within 30 days of the contract's approval by Major League Baseball and salaries of $7 million next year, $10 million in 2024 and $15 million in 2025, covering his three years of arbitration eligibility.
Álvarez, who won AL Rookie of the Year in 2019 and was the MVP of last year's American League Championship Series, receives $26 million annually from 2026 through 2028, when he would have been eligible for free agency.
He said he thought about waiting until free agency to test the market, but in the end he and his agent decided "it was the right decision to be here."
His salary can escalate from 2024 to '27 based on his finish in MVP voting: $1.5 million for first, $750,000 for second and $750,000 for third. The increase would apply to all subsequent seasons.
For 2027 and '28, Álvarez gets a limited no-trade provision allowing him to list 10 teams he cannot be dealt to without his consent.
"He's one of the best players I've ever played with," Altuve said. "And just the fact that he's going to be here, that most time means that the team is trying to win for six years. And obviously with a guy like him in your lineup, you're going to win many games."
Álvarez hit .277 last year and set career highs with 33 homers and 104 RBIs. He entered Monday's series opener against Seattle with a .295 average, 16 homers and 34 RBIs, all team highs.
While he already has proved to be one of the best young hitters in the game, Álvarez is sure he can do much more.
"I think there's always something to get better at," he said. "Obviously this is a game of adjustments, so we're always making adjustments just to continue to get progressively better."
Manager Dusty Baker agreed and said that Álvarez is only "scratching the surface" of how good he can be. Álvarez has played just one full major league season after being called up in June 2019 and missing all but two games of the 2020 season after surgery on both knees.
"That's why you sign a guy to multiyears, because you realize the fact that he is only going to get better," Baker said. "And all he has to do now is to stay healthy and the sky's the limit."
Álvarez has served primarily as a designated hitter since making his debut in 2019. But he has appeared in left field 71 times, including 20 this year, and Click believes his role in the field could be expanded in the future.
"Early in his career, many talked about him as a designated hitter," Click said. "But through his hard work and dedication, he has turned himself into a quality player in left field, combined with his hitting. This makes him quite simply, one of the best players in the game right now."
Álvarez, who defected from Cuba in 2016, is thankful to have had Gurriel and Díaz on the team as he made the transition to the majors.
"A lot of people don't understand a lot of struggles that Cuban players, Hispanic players in general, go through to come here, a lot of the risks that we take just to get to the United States to be able to play baseball," he said. "From the day that I arrived here at the Astros I was lucky enough to have guys like Yuli and Aledmys -- guys that I could look up to, and players that were Cuban who also went through some of the things that I went through."