Astros outfielder Kyle Tucker addressed the state of his extension talks with the club this week, discussing the matter with Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. He said the two sides have had some talks but “not a hard offer or anything like that.” The Excel Sports Management client added that he’s open to those discussions, “whether it happens now or a little later.”
Tucker, 27, has established himself as one of the better all-around contributors in the game. Over the past three seasons, he’s hit 89 home runs and swiped 69 bases. Only 19 players in the league had more homers in that stretch and none of those had more steals than Tucker. His .278/.353/.517 batting line in that time has led to a wRC+ of 138, 16th among qualified hitters in that span. He’s also received solid grades for his glovework in right field.
Astros general manager Dana Brown has been candid about his desire to sign extensions with the club’s players ever since getting the job last year. Around the time of those statements, they locked up Cristian Javier with a five-year, $64MM deal. More recently, they got a new deal done with José Altuve, a five-year, $125MM pact.
There’s still time to get something done with Tucker, as he’s under club control through the end of the 2025 season. However, his earning power will only increase as he moves closer to that date. MLBTR’s Contract Tracker shows just two position players with between four and five years of service time have received nine-figure extensions since the start of 2015. Bryan Reynolds got exactly $100MM from the Pirates while Matt Olson got $168MM from Atlanta.
When looking at players between five and six years of service time, it clearly takes a lot more money to keep them from getting to the open market. Byron Buxton got $100MM guaranteed but with loads of extensions. Xander Bogaerts got $120MM from the Red Sox in 2019, which was generally seen a team-friendly deal. Nolan Arenado got $234MM from the Rockies while each of Rafael Devers and Francisco Lindor got over $300MM, landing at $313.5MM and $341MM, respectively.
If the Astros are motivated to get a deal done, it would be in their interest to do it sooner rather than later. Barring an unexpected swoon in performance or an injury-marred campaign in 2024, Tucker’s price will only rise over the next year or two. Based on Tucker’s framing of the current state of affairs, it doesn’t seem like anything is close to being completed.
They also wanted to get something done around this time last year but reportedly faced notable gaps in those talks and didn’t seal the deal. Tucker went on to have another great year and bumped his 2024 salary to $12MM, avoiding arbitration last month. Brown recently indicated that the club will make Tucker an offer at some point, but time will tell if it will be enough to get his signature on the dotted line.
The Astros are in uncharted waters when it comes to their finances. Cot’s Baseball Contracts lists their highest Opening Day payroll as $188MM in 2021. This year, Roster Resource has them way up at $240MM. Their competitive balance tax figure is also high for them, currently at $255MM, well beyond the base threshold of $237MM. They have never paid the tax before, having only gone over in 2020 when the taxes were waived during the shortened season.
Going forward, there’s a bit more room but the slate isn’t exactly clean. They already have over $100MM committed to 2025, 2026 and 2027, thanks to big contracts for Altuve, Javier, Yordan Álvarez and Josh Hader. Next year’s budget is at $117MM but arbitration raises for Tucker and Framber Valdez could add around $40MM to that, plus raises for players like Chas McCormick, Jeremy Peña and others. Ryan Pressly also has a $14MM option that vests if he makes 50 appearances this year.
The next two years will see players like Tucker, Valdez, Pressly, Alex Bregman and Justin Verlander reach the end of their contracts. Those expiring deals may open up some spending room for the club but will also require them to produce replacements for those key players, which may involve signing free agents. How they look to navigate that double-edged sword should have a notable impact on the future of the club.