Astros Rumors: Houston Talking Long-Term Extensions With Javier, Tucker and Valdez

Championship Series - Houston Astros v New York Yankees - Game Four
Championship Series - Houston Astros v New York Yankees - Game Four / Sarah Stier/GettyImages
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Astros talking contract extension with Cristian Javier, Kyle Tucker and Framber Valdez

""It would not surprise me at all if by the time the season opens in 2023, one, or both, of Valdez and Javier had a long-term extension." "

Jon Morosi

Rejoice Astros fans, rejoice. According to a report from Jon Morosi on MLB Network, Houston has plans to work out a long-term extension with Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, and has had conversations with Kyle Tucker as well. 

We highlighted all three of these players as key pieces for the Astros to lock up for the future immediately after the World Series. With free agent contracts continuing to balloon, it may be this offseason or never for these three in Houston. 

It’s important to note that Houston has never signed a free agent to a contract longer than four years and their longest extension has been Yordan Alvarez for six years. The Astros haven't done these mega deals that other franchises have done, and not getting locked in to sentimental players for the long haul has been extremely successful. A "long-term" extension for them may very well be five-six years.

With the money and long-term security being tossed around in free agency this offseason, can they compete? We'll have to see. They do have extra money floating around to do so after letting Verlander walk and replacing his contract with a much cheaper Jose Abreu, as Morosi alluded to.

Let’s start with Javier, the most likely and the most deserving of receiving a long-term extension. He's a truly special talent--dominant out of the bullpen and dominant as a starter; dominant in the regular season and dominant in the postseason. He's also the youngest of the three players (though Tucker also is 25).

Javier had a phenomenal regular season in 2022: 11-9 with a 2.54 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 11.7 K/9, a 152 ERA+. As if those numbers weren't good enough, his Statcast metrics were even better: 98th percentile in expected batting average, 96th in expected ERA/wOBA, 95th in expected slugging, 94th in strikeout rate and 82nd in whiff rate.

With a full season in the rotation impending, Javier will very likely make a push for the Cy Young. He'll be much cheaper to lock up before that happens. If one of the three is extended this offseason, expect it to be Javier.

Javier's co-ace, Framber Valdez, also is very deserving of an extension, though his advanced age works against him. Valdez is already 29. He may not receive a contract that matches the length of Javier, but he's just as, if not more important.

Javier is more dominant, with an unrivaled ability to miss bats. But he also can be erratic and at times miss the zone. Valdez is a quality starts machine that simply eats innings. An arm like that is invaluable for their ability to preserve the bullpen. That was one of the biggest things Verlander brought to the Astros, and they need Valdez to do the same.

But he's not just an innings eater. Valdez finished 2022 17-6 with a 2.82 ERA and an MLB-record 25 consecutive quality starts. Valdez earned a top-5 finish in Cy Young voting in the American League for his efforts.

He may see some regression with the elimination of the shift coinciding with his reliance on ground balls, as his expected ERA last year was 3.31, but that still makes him a top-25 pitcher in the game. Valdez is every bit of a co-ace with Javier. If both are extended, the Astros window stays wide open.

And last but certainly not least, Kyle Tucker. Morosi mostly mentioned Tucker in passing, and alluded to how expensive he will be, but Tucker may very well be the most deserving candidate.

He's 25-years-old, arguably the best defensive outfielder in the game, a fantasic baserunner and an elite hitter only about to get more elite with the elimination of the shift.

Kyle Tucker recorded the second most outs on ground balls/line drives into the shift in 2022 with 66. Now, we can't just say those automatically become 66 base hits, but if even 30 of them turned into singles, Tucker bats .313 with a .913 OPS. And certainly a few would find their way into the corner for extra bases.

Tucker had 605 plate appearances in 2022, facing a shift in 550 of them, good for the 16th highest percentage in the game. He recorded a .336 wOBA when facing a shift. Over the course of a full season, a .333wOBA would be good for 77th best in the bigs, a good hitter but not the talent we know Tucker to be.

But when Kyle wasn't shifted, he was unrivaled. Legitimately unrivaled. Tucker stepped to the plate 55 times in 2022 when for some unbeknownst reason the defense was not shifted. In those 55 plate appearances, he recorded a .463 wOBA. Aaron Judge hit 62 home runs in 2022 and led baseball with a .458 wOBA.

Now, the shift going away won't give Tucker 62 home runs, but it likely will give him plenty more singles and doubles. Gone will be the days of the 113 mph scalded ground ball/line drive into shallow left that goes down as an out.

A season in which Tucker hits .315 with a .930 OPS is not out of the question. Factor in his Gold Glove defense and propensity to steal 20-30 bags and you've got a massive extension staring you in the face.

Tucker especially is now or never for Houston. If the Astros can lock him up this offseason, their window of contention stays wide open.

A core moving forward of Alvarez, Javier, Jeremy Peña and Tucker leaves their window of contention open for nearly the next decade. If Altuve and Bregman were to resign, they'd remain the class of the AL for the foreseeable future.

Whether it's Jim Crane, Jeff Bagwell, Reggie Jackson or the mascot Orbit, let's hope whoever is calling the shots can iron out an extension for these three mega-talents.

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