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Hey guys, it’s Ari Alexander with the Astros who had a great start to the week - meeting the president, then beating the 70-win Orioles at their place with a Kyle Tucker grand slam off their Cy Young candidate closer, whew! Let’s get into what’s going on with the Astros.
POST TRADE-DEADLINE STROS
With the dust settled, here’s what happened at the deadline:
IN: SP Justin Verlander, RP Kendall Graveman
OUT: AAA C Korey Lee, AA OF Drew Gilbert, A+ OF Ryan Clifford
The Astros are going for it, adding 2022 Cy Young Winner Justin Verlander for two of the system’s top prospects. Houston also shored up their bullpen and gave away blocked catcher Korey Lee, a deal that makes sense for both sides (the White Sox are extremely catcher-poor).
Houston may not have wanted to lose the top end of their prospects, but the position those guys play - outfield - makes it easier. The Astros have a lot of well-regarded minor league outfielders, and at least 4 major league outfielders who aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO EXTEND KYLE TUCKER
Many Astros fans would love to see Kyle Tucker in Houston for the long term, and even general manager Dana Brown has said it’s something the team would like to work on. But how realistic is it?
The answer is - as realistic as Jim Crane wants it to be.
The biggest extension Houston has ever done is Jose Altuve’s 5-year, $151 million contract in 2018.
A Tucker extension would have to shatter that, in both years and money.
Kyle Tucker hits free agency after the 2025 season, leading into his age 29 year.
A realistic open market contract for Tucker likely lands somewhere between $250 million and $320 million, depending on the years - let’s say 10. This is obviously a pretty big range, but we’re guessing two seasons in advance here with multiple factors.
The contracts we’re working off of - Aaron Judge’s 9-year, $360 million extension with the Yankees, starting with his age 31 season, and the 7-year $182 million deal for Kris Bryant, which he signed starting his age-30 season. Keep in mind, age matters, and Tucker’s open market deal would start at age-29.
So we’re looking at somewhere between $28 million and $36 million per year, with all of these guys being right fielders. Tucker is probably better defensively than both, winning a Gold Glove in 2022, despite being down a bit defensively in 2023.
So now, what does an extension look like? The Astros would save some money by buying out Tucker’s 2024 and 2025 arbitration seasons. If we’re roughly working off Pete Alonso’s arbitration numbers (Tucker and Alonso have similar runs created, with Tucker playing a more premium position and Alonso providing more power - they were also high school teammates, which is fun), Tucker should make something like $14 million in 2024, and something like $18 million in 2025. That would give him an average of $16 million for his arbitration, and then you start with his free agent years, which would more costly.
For a deal to make sense to Tucker, it would have to do one of two things:
1. Be so short, he hits the market again at age 32 or younger (this doesn’t really make sense for the Astros)
2. Be long enough to take him through his prime years, say age 36 or 37 (this is where it gets expensive)
Even on the lower end, closer to Bryant, Tucker would command $28 million per free agent year, so we’re adding basically Bryant’s deal + $32 million to buy out the arbitration years - that looks like 9 years (an Astros record), $205ish million (an Astros record). And that would be a *good* deal for the Astros, but probably short of what Kyle Tucker can get in the open market.
The type of advantages the Astros had in previous extensions with say Yordan Alvarez (injury history) and Cristian Javier (only one year of being a full-time starter), they don’t have in the Tucker negotiation. Tucker is likely to finish 2023 receiving MVP votes for the 3rd consecutive season. He’s on pace to set career highs in batting average, on base percentage and isn’t far off his career high in OPS+. Since he became a starter in 2020, Tucker is 37 percent above league average in hitting. He’s rated in the Top 20 offensive players in both wRC+ and WAR since 2020. He is quite clearly one of the best 15-20 offensive players in baseball. Those players cost money.
So how do you get the deal done?
9 years, $240 million sounds like the correct range. That would shatter the Astros extension record by nearly $100 million.
The Astros are home to face Shohei Ohtani and the Angels starting tonight.