Kyle Tucker and Framber Valdez potential candidates for contract extension
Fresh off of a World Series victory, we ran a piece highlighting the Astros most deserving of a long-term contract extension. About a month and a half later, news broke the Astros were in contract extension talks with three of the names on our list.
According to The Athletic, that list of three may be down to two names: Kyle Tucker and Framber Valdez. Now, The Athletic still doesn't have a beat writer for the Astros and hasn't since Jake Kaplan left in May. With that being the case--who knows if they have an accurate pulse on Houston or their moves. The lack of coverage for the reigning champs is a discussion for a different day
That said, Jim Bowden ranked the 15 contract extension candidates to watch before Opening Day. Kyle Tucker was fourth on his list while Valdez was 10th.
Bowden said this of Tucker:
"Tucker has hit 30 home runs in each of the past two seasons, and last year stole 25 bases in 29 attempts and won his first Gold Glove Award for his play in right field. He’s finished top 20 in the American League MVP voting the past two years and his prime years are ahead of him. It’s time to extend him, even though the Astros control him for three more years. In all likelihood, the price is only going to go up. For the Astros’ sake, hopefully they’ve learned it’s much better to act and sign the player at a young age rather than waiting and losing him, like they did with George Springer, Carlos Correa and Gerrit Cole."- Jim Bowden
Much of what he says here I agree with. Now, the Astros have won a ring without all three names he listed as "losing." They won a pennant without Springer and Cole. It's not like they've fallen off a cliff by not offering long-term extensions. They zig while other teams zag in the form of offering decade-long, $300+ million contracts. So far, it's tough to argue.
While those were painful players to see walk from an emotional perspective, Tucker operates in a different stratosphere. And as Bowden points out, they need to strike now. The price for Tucker is only going to continue to soar.
Houston bought out the last years of Alex Bregman's arbitration years and then extended his first two years of free agency in early 2019. He had established himself as an All-Star and a key piece, but had they waited until the end of the season after he was robbed of an MVP, his price tag likely would have been much higher.
They're in the exact same spot with Tucker. He's firmly entrenched in all-star conversations. He's a gold glover. He's a key piece. But 2023 is when Tucker will explode. The shift is going away and he will hopefully finally be moved out of the sixth-spot.
If the Astros don't pony up and pay Tucker now, before he hits .300 with 30 bombs, 110 RBI and a .900+ OPS and makes a serious MVP push, they won't have the chance too. With the elimination of the shift, he'll have played himself out of their price range. Now is the time to extend Tucker. As Altuve and Bregman age, he and the already locked up Yordan Alvarez can step into the face of the franchise roles that Breggy and Tuve have filled so faithfully over the years.
As for Valdez, Bowden pointed out that he will step into the role of ace without JV. A convincing case can be made he was already a co-ace last season as he led the AL in innings pitched, set a consecutive quality starts record, and dominated the opposition in the postseason.
I actually made the case Valdez may see some regression in 2023. Where Tucker will benefit from the removal of the shift, the groundball, double play inducing machine that is Framber may be punished, His expected stats show that may be the case.
Now, those expected stats show a 3.31xERA. That still makes him a top-25 pitcher in the game. And with his semi-advanced age (he'll be 32 hitting unrestricted free agency for the first time), his price tag may be a little lower than one would expect. Houston should extend Framber this offseason for the right price.
Curiously absent from Bowden's list was Cristian Javier. The other co-ace, Javier is younger than Valdez and posted some of the most dominant Statcast expected numbers in the MLB. He will only get better.
If the Astros can come out of the offseason with at least two of these three extended, it can be deemed a success. Were it my money, I'd spend it on Javier and Tucker. But it goes without saying it's not mine, but Jim Crane's. And since he's arrived, it's hard to argue with how he has chosen to spend and to save. We've got an exciting few months of the offseason still to go.