While most of the focus this offseason when it comes to the Houston Astros has been on how little they have actually done so far, there has also been a fair bit of speculation about what the future holds for the Astros. With Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Framber Valdez, and Kyle Tucker all set to become free agents over the next couple of years, the Astros' roster could see some massive changes that could alter the trajectory of the franchise for the foreseeable future.
Altuve seems like he will stick around assuming Houston doesn't completely blow it. Framber Valdez is a bit tougher and there has been some trade talk surrounding him, but an extension doesn't feel completely unlikely. Bregman is almost assuredly going to leave in search of one last big payday that Houston won't give him (and rightly so). That leaves Kyle Tucker who might have the murkiest future of all four of these guys.
By all accounts, the Astros want to keep Tucker around. His all-around game at the plate makes him a threat to go 30/30 in any given season and given the short shelf life of some of the guys currently in their lineup, he is a natural candidate to try and extend as a young bat with loads of upside. The problem is that he and his reps know exactly how valuable he is and could be looking for a payday in the neighborhood of the $300+ million that the Red Sox gave Rafael Devers. That might be a tough sell to an owner that is loathe to commit that much to one player and a GM that likes to spread money around the whole roster.
Fortunately, there are some experts that think that Houston could have a ready-made replacement for Tucker right in their own minor league system in Jacob Melton who looks like he could break out in 2024.
Jacob Melton could be the replacement for Kyle Tucker the Astros' may desperately need
When the Astros picked Jacob Melton ($) out of Oregon State in the second round of the 2022 draft, they certainly hoped that his well-rounded game would translate well to the pros. However, no one could have realistically thought that he would feature the type of in-game power this quickly along with his already elite speed to become the Astros' top prospect this quickly.
While Melton's overall slash line in 2023 was a decidedly medium .245/.334/.467, he still hit 23 bombs, stole 46 bases, and consistently hit the ball hard all year long. If his hit tool just takes a tiny step forward next season and his batted ball luck starts to turn in his favor, he could quickly become one of the better position player prospects in all of baseball by season's end.
Melton emergence could not come at a better time for Houston. Assuming Melton does, at minimum, continue his performance from last year, the urgency to find a way to sign Tucker lessens considerably. The Astros could use his presence in leverage in negotiations with Tucker by pointing out that they are not desperate to keep him while pointing to Melton's very, very similar profile. They could even go one step further and say that they appreciate Tucker's service, but they can get similar production from the much-cheaper-in-the-short-term Melton and use the money they would have to use to keep Tucker to bolster other areas of the roster.
Ultimately, all of this hinges on Melton's development. If he struggles early in 2024, fans can expect the pressure to ramp up to get an extension for Tucker done. However, if he comes out swinging, don't be surprised if folks start talking about the post-Tucker era in a similar way to how people are framing Bregman's impending departure right now.