The Houston Astros and manager A.J. Hinch reached an agreement this week on a new contract.
Brian McTaggart of MLB.com passed along confirmation about the new deal from Hinch. Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reported the signing is "believed to have guaranteed money through at least 2018," but the details weren't officially announced.
Drellich also included comments from Astros owner Jim Crane from earlier in spring training:
A.J.'s a bright guy. He delivers a great message in the locker room. ... He's got a lot of experience. I think you saw that come through with the way he pulled the guys together. I think there was an expectation of A.J. that he and Jeff get along extremely well. That makes things very fluid for the whole time, so you know the chemistry's there with the front office. He handles the players extremely well, and they respect him, and that's what you want.
Star second baseman Jose Altuve provided a simpler explanation to the Houston Chronicle: "He's the right manager for the right team."
Hinch also commented on the extension, per Drellich:
Evan Drellich @EvanDrellich
AJ Hinch on his contract extension. Says he loves it with Astros. Watch: https://t.co/w1qzcZIn8j2016-3-8 15:06:36
The Astros are one of the league's most promising teams, and they started to showcase that potential last season. They reached the playoffs for the first time since 2005 during Hinch's first season in charge after posting a 86-76 record during the regular season.
Altuve, 25, is joined by the likes of shortstop Carlos Correa, 21, outfielder George Springer, 26, and pitchers Dallas Keuchel, 28, Collin McHugh, 28, and Lance McCullers, 22, to give the team a potent core of under-30 contributors.
There's more talent on the way, too. Baseball America rated the Astros second in its 2016 Organization Talent Rankings, behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers. So the organization is set up for long-term success.
Being able to handle all of that young talent and putting them in positions to succeed will be a tough task over the next handful of years. Clearly, the Houston front office saw enough encouraging signs in 2015 to ensure Hinch stays in place as the franchise builds toward a championship run.
The former MLB catcher didn't enjoy nearly as much success during a prior stint with the Arizona Diamondbacks, going 89-123 across parts of two seasons. In turn, there's still pressure on him over the next few years to show he can make a positive impact on a budding roster.
The often-painful rebuilding process is over in Houston, and now, expectations are rapidly beginning to rise. The onus is on Hinch to make sure the Astros reach those goals, which will include winning a championship in the near future.