Singleton to join Astros, agrees on extension
First baseman will make big league debut Tuesday night against Halos
HOUSTON -- Only a few weeks after the Astros called up top outfield prospect George Springer to the Major Leagues, the club is reaching back into the farm system for another prized prospect: slugging first baseman Jon Singleton.
The Astros announced on Monday they had signed Singleton to a five-year contract with three club options that could keep him in an Astros uniform through 2021. He is expected to be in the lineup for his Major League debut when the Astros open a three-game series against the Angels on Tuesday.
Marc Krauss was optioned to Triple-A.
The deal will pay Singleton $10 million guaranteed for five years and carries a potential value of $30 million, according to a Major League Baseball source. The deal runs from the 2014-18 seasons and provides the club with options for the 2019-21 seasons.
The deal, which has been in the works since April, is unprecedented, considering Singleton hasn't played one game in the Majors. He reportedly will be paid $1.5 million this year, $2 million a year from 2015-18, $2.5 million in 2019, $5 million in 2020 and $13 million in 2021. The Astros have buyout options of $500,000 in 2019 and $250,000 in both 2020 and 2021, Yahoo! Sports reported.
"It took a while to get to get it across the finish line," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "I think it really began with the desire to have the deal be good for both sides, good for the player in that the player is given some security and the player knows how important he is to the organization. And good for the organization in that we now have cost control over a player that has a chance to be pretty special and that we believe is going to be a good big league player and potentially a great big league player."
Singleton, considered by MLB.com's Prospect Watch to be the Astros' No. 3 prospect behind shortstop Carlos Correa and right-hander Mark Appel, has spent the 2014 season thus far with Triple-A Oklahoma City. The 22-year-old former eighth-round pick of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft has hit .267 with 37 runs, 10 doubles, 14 homers and 43 RBIs in 54 games.
"The fact he went out these first two months at Triple-A and performed the way he did on top of the fact he went to winter ball and performed there, and his whole history of performance since he was drafted, made us feel comfortable he is going to perform -- maybe not from Day 1 the way [the fans] will want him to, but soon enough," Luhnow said. "He's still young, he's still getting better and I think his future is very bright."
The Astros haven't had much production from the first base platoon of right-hander Jesus Guzman and the left-handed-hitting Krauss, who have combined to hit .181 with a .561 OPS -- the lowest in the Majors among first basemen. Luhnow anticipates Singleton will start against right-handers and left-handers after he hit .309 with four homers and 14 RBIs against lefties this year.
"Our coaches and our scouts believe that he will be successful against both sides and it will allow him to play every day, and defensively he's a very good first baseman," Luhnow said. "He's got power, so he should be a guy that [manager] Bo [Porter] should be happy to write him in the lineup every day."
The Astros haven't been shy about trying to sign their young players to club-friendly deals before they reach arbitration. Last year, they signed All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve a four-year, $17 million contract extension with two options. They have also approached Springer, outfielder Robbie Grossman and third baseman Matt Dominguez about extensions.
A left-handed bat, Singleton was one of four players the Astros acquired in the July 2011 deal that sent Hunter Pence to the Phillies. Two other players from that deal -- pitchers Jarred Cosart and Josh Zeid -- have reached the Majors, and Cosart is one of the Astros' top starters.
"We have a lot of young, exciting players in our organization," Luhnow said. "At the big league level, we've got several, and in the Minor Leagues, we've got several coming. We have to be selective to a certain extent, because there's only so many positions in the big leagues. We do want to evaluate all of our players and see if we think there might be a fit for them and for us.
"It's not something we feel we have to do, but when there's a match and the player values some security and we value cost certainty, it's something we're going to explore."
Cosart's promotion last July represented the first of three top prospects the Astros called up in less than a year, adding Springer and Singleton this year.
Springer is hitting .259 with 10 homers and 29 RBIs in 41 games, including a stretch from May 21-29 when he hit seven home runs in a seven-game span. He batted .390 with seven homers and 17 RBIs during an 11-game hitting streak from May 17-29.
Singleton was suspended for the first 50 games of last season following his second consecutive failed marijuana test and had mixed results upon his return. He spent most of the season at Triple-A Oklahoma City and hit .220 with six homers and 31 RBIs in 73 games.
Singleton admitted during Spring Training he was a drug addict and had struggled with marijuana and alcohol abuse. He said he enjoyed smoking weed and spent time in rehab last year, though he said at the time he hadn't smoked the drug in more than a year.
Luhnow said Singleton showed maturity by tackling the issue head on and working hard this season on the field.
"He did a good job putting the suspension behind him and focusing on the task at hand, which was improving his chances of becoming a big league player and a good big league player," he said. "That was a big step. You're never 100 percent sure there won't be recurring issues, but we do believe he's doing the work to keep himself productive on the field and out of trouble off the field."
Of course, now that Springer and Singleton are in Houston, Astros fans want to know who's next. Hard-throwing right-hander Mike Foltynewicz is having a good season at Triple-A, and Correa could be in Double-A soon.
"We'll see whose name starts to get bandied about," Luhnow said. "There's still a lot of exciting players. Right now, the team we have here -- the bullpen's strong, we've got starters we like, but only have five here now, and the lineup's gotten better. This will be a fun team to watch for the next couple of months, so we'll see what happens."