Astros’ next extension candidate needs to be locked down soon

While the Astros stay below the competitive balance tax, Houston is eyeing an extension for its premier right fielder.

Carlos Correa’s departure this spring has led to the Houston Astros freeing up nearly $35 million a year in contract cash. Although on a deferred deal, Zack Greinke’s departure is perhaps part of that large chunk, as he averaged 12.5 million a season.

But a new large deal is circling, as Kyle Tucker’s camp is in negotiation with the Astros on a contract extension, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reported Monday with Brian McTaggart.

Tucker is arbitration eligible for 2023 as his current contract at $764,200 will expire at the end of the year. He is under control until 2026 by the Astros but would go through arbitration this fall if his agents — Excel Sports Management — and the Astros’ brass can’t find a deal before the end of the year.

Tucker is due for a big contract payday as he is severely underpaid compared to his production.  Tucker hit .294 with 30 homers and 92 RBI while stealing 14 bags last season with a .917 OPS and 148 OPS+.

Tucker led the Astros in steals after Myles Straw’s departure and was among the top three in home runs, RBI, doubles and triples. Although starting the year with a .124 average, the lefty has slashed .343 and slugged .582 with an OPS of 1.033 since April 24.

All of that production is prior to his monster performance Tuesday night against the Boston Red Sox in Fenway, hitting two home runs, one of which was a grand slam and driving in six.

But one of Tucker’s most-underrated skills is his defense and his arm. Tucker is currently tied for second in the majors in outfield assists with three, only bested by his former teammate Myles Straw who sits at six, thus adding even more intrigue and desire for Astros faithful to want a contract extension done.

Unfortunately for Tucker, the talks have ceased at this time as both sides couldn’t come to an agreement prior to the regular season. In the mean time, Tucker did not dismiss the possibility of negotiating during the season, according to Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle.

Hopefully they will continue to negotiate in the near future, as I’m sure Tucker would love to remind the Astros front office of his two-homer game while discussing terms.

Fans will not be forgiving if general manager James Click and Jim Crane can’t get a deal done and let it go to arbitration, as they will once again be reminded of the non-deal not negotiation between Correa and the Astros earlier this year.

At some point, the checkbook needs to come out and pay the players who are the nucleus of the Astros’ World Series dynasty and not let them walk. This will truly be a test of Clicks’ skill and competence and either establish a pattern of non-deals for big players or show renewed commitment to winning at any cost.