The Brewers have officially announced that they have signed outfield prospect Jackson Chourio to an eight-year extension that runs through 2031 plus two club options for 2032 and 2033. Previous reporting has indicated the guarantee is $82MM, with the options each valued at $25MM. There are also some unknown incentives, which could allow him to max out at $142.5MM if he hits them all and both options are picked up. The options come with $2MM buyouts.
The deal is the largest ever offered to a player prior to their major league debut, surpassing the six-year, $50MM guarantee the White Sox gave to Luis Robert Jr. prior to the 2020 season. While Chourio, 19, has played just six games above the Double-A level to this point in his young career, it’s easy to see why this level of confidence in the youngster. Chourio is a consensus top-three prospect in the sport, with only Orioles shortstop Jackson Holliday ranked above him consistently by prospect outlets. The deal will keep Chourio under contract through at least 2030 while extending his potential window of team control through 2032, his age-29 season.
Chourio signed with Milwaukee out of Venezuela for a $1.8MM bonus back in 2021 and immediately made an impression during his professional debut with a .286/.386/.447 slash line in 45 Dominican Summer League games at just 17 years old. His stateside debut the following season went even better as the youngster slashed a phenomenal .288/.342/.538 in 439 trips to the plate split between the Single-A, High-A, and Double-A levels. That performance already made Chourio a consensus top-10 prospect in the sport prior to the 2023 season, and he did little to disprove his status among the game’s elite prospect talents, slashing .280/.336/.467 in 559 plate appearances in his return to Double-A before his aforementioned cup of coffee in Triple-A. While he received just 24 plate appearances at the minors’ highest level, Chourio did not look overmatched with a slash line of .333/.375/.476.
With Chourio entering the 2024 season under guaranteed contract, there will be little incentive for the Brewers to send him back to Triple-A to start the regular season so long as he doesn’t look overmatched during big league camp this spring. The deal takes away the possibility of the club securing an extra year of team control, while the club could stand to gain a draft pick from the prospect promotion incentive if Chourio secures a full year of service time as a rookie eligible player and wins the Rookie of the Year award in 2024 or places in the top three of MVP voting before he would’ve been eligible for arbitration.
That said, Chourio starting the season with the big league club isn’t necessarily guaranteed. After all, the youngster has minimal experience at the Triple-A level and the Brewers already have a relatively crowded outfield mix even before considering their top prospect. Christian Yelich figures to get everyday at-bats in either left field or as the club’s DH, leaving just two spots for Chourio, Garrett Mitchell, Joey Wiemer, Sal Frelick, Tyrone Taylor, and Blake Perkins. On the other hand, only Mitchell posted an above-average offensive season by wRC+ in 2023 among that group, leaving plenty of room for Chourio to establish himself as one of the club’s best options. It’s also worth noting that the Brewers could attempt to leverage that crop of young outfield options on the trade market this offseason, improving the club in other areas while clearing up the logjam on the outfield grass.
Securing Chourio’s services for the next eight-to-ten seasons gives the Brewers some additional security regarding their potential budding superstar. Milwaukee has faced several difficult decisions regarding star players on the verge of free agency this offseason, from non-tendering ace right-hander Brandon Woodruff to considering trades for Willy Adames and Corbin Burnes. If retained into next season, both Adames and Burnes are likely to depart in free agency next winter. By extending Chourio now, the Brewers take on the risk that their teenage phenom doesn’t reach his potential at the big league level in exchange for avoiding a similar situation to the one they’re currently facing down the road.
It’s not currently clear if this deal will impact the club’s thinking with regards to Burnes and Adames, but it shouldn’t have much of an impact from a financial perspective. While Chourio’s contract has an AAV of $10.25MM for luxury tax purposes, the club is more than $100MM below the first luxury tax threshold, per RosterResource. What’s more, early-career extensions tend to have salaries that ramp up over the course of the extension. In the likely event that Chourio’s deal has a similar structure, the youngster’s salary figures to be relatively low in 2024 despite the healthy guarantee.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic first reported that the two sides were closing in on an agreement. Curt Hogg of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported the deal would be in the $80MM range over eight years. Jon Heyman of The New York Post first reported the specifics of the $82MM guarantee and club options with $2MM buyouts. Rosenthal reported the option values and Heyman had the potential max payout of the deal.