Astros GM Dana Brown has been candid about the club’s efforts to extend a member of their core ever since he arrived in Houston last winter. Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the first extension the club signed under Brown’s leadership (a five-year deal for right-hander Cristian Javier), and longtime franchise face Jose Altuve agreed to a five-year extension of his own just last week. While attention has generally turned toward third baseman Alex Bregman as he heads into his final year before free agency and Houston brass indicates they intend to offer him a long-term extension offer before he reaches the open market, Brown recently made clear that Bregman isn’t the only star hitter the club plans to broach an extension with.
In an appearance on MLB Network Radio today, Brown told hosts Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette that the club plans to discuss a long-term extension with outfielder Kyle Tucker in addition to Bregman. Brown emphasized that there’s no specifically timeline for when those conversations will be held, though he noted that the club has “a little bit more time for Tucker,” who won’t be a free agent until after the 2025 campaign.
That the club would have interest in extending Tucker is hardly a surprise. Brown identified Tucker alongside Bregman, Altuve, and Framber Valdez as members of the club’s core they were hoping to extend last spring, though the club faced gaps in talks with both Tucker and Valdez before eventually deciding to wait on engaging with Altuve and Bregman until this winter. At the time, Tucker was coming off a stretch of three seasons where he slashed .274/.341/.516 en route to MVP votes in the 2021 and ’22 seasons as well as a Gold Glove award and All Star nod in the latter campaign.
The price on Tucker’s services figures to have only gone up since last winter. The slugger’s age-26 campaign saw him slash a fantastic .284/.369/.517 in 157 games, falling just one home run short of a 30/30 season. He led the AL with 112 RBI and earned his second consecutive All Star nod, the first Silver Slugger award of his career, and a top-5 finish in AL MVP voting behind Shohei Ohtani, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, and Julio Rodriguez. Tucker and the Astros managed to avoid arbitration last month by agreeing on a $12MM salary for the 2024 campaign, though the sides did not use those negotiations as a vehicle to explore a longer-term arrangement.
With Tucker just one year away from free agency and coming off the best season of his young career, it could be a challenge for the club to extend the Excel Sports client. Under the ownership of Jim Crane, the Astros have never given out a contract longer than six years, nor one that guarantees more than $150MM. Just one outfielder with a similar pedigree to Tucker have inked long-term deals with between four and five years of service time: slugger Giancarlo Stanton signed a 13-year, $325MM megadeal with the Marlins nearly a decade ago, in November of 2014.
This isn’t to suggest Tucker should exceed or even meet the figure Stanton received, of course. Age plays an important role in a player’s earning power as they approach free agency, a reality that heavily favored Stanton in comparison to Tucker. Stanton was on track to reach free agency ahead of his age-27 season, while Tucker will hit free agency ahead of his age-29 campaign. What’s more, his overall offensive numbers pale in comparison to Stanton’s. Impressive Tucker’s career-best 146 wRC+ in 2021 was, Stanton’s wRC+ for his entire career at the time was a comparable 145, with an incredible platform season that saw him slash .288/.395/.555 with a 161 wRC+ the season prior to the deal coming together.
Even as Tucker can’t be expected to sign a deal in the same realm as that of Stanton, it’s nonetheless difficult to see Houston locking up Tucker long term without exiting their apparent comfort zone given the success outfielders have found in free agency in recent years. Former Astros outfielder George Springer landed a six-year, $150MM deal with the Blue Jays after entering free agency ahead of his age-31 season with a career wRC+ of 134, and more recently Brandon Nimmo re-signed with the Mets on an eight-year, $162MM deal last winter after hitting free agency a year older than Tucker is slated to with a career wRC+ of 133. Given Tucker’s youth and similar offensive numbers, it seems likely he’d have a good chance to beat the deals landed by Springer and Nimmo in previous offseasons, even as both players augmented their value with the ability to play center field at the time of the deal.
While the Astros, who have just over $134MM in luxury tax payroll committed for the 2025 season as things stand, could certainly afford to give Tucker a lengthy contract, it seems likely that such a deal would require Houston to enter territory not yet charted by the club with their offer, a similar predicament to the one they face with Bregman. It also seems unlikely that Tucker would offer the club a significant hometowm discount, given comments from Brown last winter indicating that the Astros were facing a larger gap in extension discussions with Tucker than Valdez, neither of whom the club ultimately came together on a deal with.
Between the club’s hesitance to offer star-level contracts throughout Crane’s tenure as owner, Brown’s indication that Bregman is the club’s priority for the time being, and the difficulties the sides faced in bridging what was likely a smaller gap last spring, there’s plenty of obstacles facing Tucker and the Astros should they look to extend their relationship long-term. While it’s impossible to rule anything out given the difficult gaps clubs and players have bridged previously around the league, an extension for Tucker would surely require the club moving well outside of its comfort zone in terms of player payroll. That’s particularly true if a Tucker extension were to be paired with a deal locking up Bregman long-term.