A good friend of the blog, astrocolt45, posted a link that led to today’s post.
If Washington Nats’ wunderkind Juan Soto is worth more than 13 years / $350 MM (at least according to Scott Boras.
Are these three players equivalent? No, because Soto so far is better and younger than Tucker and Alvarez. However, the gap between them is not like between Martin Maldonado and Mike Trout. These guys are in the same general neighborhood and the fact that neighborhood price tag is being set that high can be concerning to Astro fans.
Relative ages and controllability
- Juan Soto debuted at the age of 19 in 2018 and will turn 24 next October. He made $8.5 MM last year, quite a salary for a pre-arbitration eligible player. He will be arbitration-eligible this year for the first time and he is predicted by mlbtraderumors to make $16.2 MM this season. He will be eligible for free agency beginning the 2025 season after three potential years of arbitration (if he is not extended before then).
- Yordan Alvarez debuted in 2019 at the age of 21 (right before his 22nd birthday) and will turn 25 at the end of June. He is not arbitration-eligible until 2023 and would be a free agent heading into 2026. He has been making league minimum and based on what the Astros have done with similar players in the season before arbitration (like Carlos Correa), they may throw him a one year bone ($1 or 2 million) if they can’t extend him and buy out some arbitration.
- Kyle Tucker debuted in 2018 at the age of 21 and just turned 25 a month ago. He is also arbitration-eligible heading into 2023 and becomes a free agent heading into 2026. Similarly to Alvarez, the team should be giving him some type of raise heading into 2022 in his last pre-arb season.
- There is no argument that Soto has been the best of the three after completing his four seasons in the biggies. He was second in the Rookie of the year voting in 2018 and has received significant MVP support in the other three years, including coming in second in 2021. His 162 game average over that time has been the equivalent of a .301 BA/ .432 OBP/ .981 OPS with 118 runs, 34 HRs and 109 RBIs for every 162 games. His ability to take walks and get on base is huge as he has put up a .490 OBP and a .465 OBP the last two seasons.
- Alvarez has been almost as good as Soto in basically the equivalent of 1-1/2 seasons in the majors. He was Rookie of the Year in a little more than half of the 2018 season and that was a unanimous vote. He did lose the 2020 season to something other than the pandemic with his knee injury and his 2021 season was very good, but not at the level of the 2019 season. His 162 game average has a slash of .290 BA/.371 OBP/ .948 OPS with 106 runs, 42 HRs and 129 RBIs per a full slate of games. The one drawback with Alvarez is that, so far he is not an everyday fielder.
- Tucker’s career numbers are a bit behind both Soto and Alvarez, though he is coming off a 2021 season where he earned some MVP support, which was his best year yet. His 2021 numbers in 140 games was a quite excellent .294 BA/ .359 OBP/ .917 OPS with 83 runs, 30 HRs and 92 RBIs. There is no doubt that those runs/RBIs numbers would have been better if he was not stuck in the 7th spot in the lineup for most of the season. His 162 game average for his career has been .274 BA/ .338 OBP/ .917 OPS with 92 runs, 28 HRs and 97 RBIs over a season’s worth of games. He is an excellent fielder also and has stolen a pristine 28 of 32 bases in his career to date.
So, if Juan Soto is worth more than 13 years / $350 MM, what are we talking about for Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker? Of course, things can change between now and when a decision is made, but it would not be surprising to see the Astros try to extend them for $20-25 MM/ yr when they are getting close to free agency.
How the Astros transition to this next wave of long term commitments will have a long-ranging impact on both the quality and sustainability of their team.