The Brewers and outfield prospect Jackson Chourio are discussing an extension, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Though the deal is not done, the report states it would set a new benchmark for an extension signed by a player with no major league experience. It’s unclear if the deal is close to being done or if talks are still in early stages. Chourio is represented by Beverly Hills Sports Council.
Chourio is still quite young, as he doesn’t turn 20 years old until March, but he has vaulted himself to the top echelons of prospect lists thanks to his all-around contributions. He spent most of 2023 in Double-A, getting into 122 games at that level. He hit 22 home runs in that time and stole 43 bases. His .280/.336/.467 batting line translated to a wRC+ of 112, at a level where the average age was almost 24. He’s also considered an above-average defender in center field. He received a late promotion to Triple-A and got into six games there.
It’s also possible that his batting line from this year masks his true talent. His scouting report at Baseball America notes that the Double-A Southern League experimented with a pre-tacked ball which led to increased pitch movement and disadvantaged hitters, but they switched to a traditional ball in July. Chourio hit .239/.304/.410 prior to the switch but .323/.380/.544 against the traditional ball.
Chourio is currently considered the #2 prospect in the league, behind Jackson Holliday, by BA, MLB Pipeline and the most recent list from Keith Law of The Athletic. He’s currently listed #3 at FanGraphs and the most recent list from ESPN.
It appears that the Brewers have plenty of faith in Chourio’s ability, despite the fact that he has just six games of experience above Double-A and is still a teenager for a few more months. The exact details of the contract being discussed aren’t known, but Rosenthal indicates it will top the previous benchmark for players who have yet to reach the majors.
As noted by Rosenthal, five different players have received extensions prior to their MLB debuts. MLBTR’s Contract Tracker shows that, of those five deals, the two most lucrative were both given out by the White Sox. In March of 2019, they gave Eloy Jiménez a six-year, $43MM deal, then topped that the following January by giving Luis Robert Jr. $50MM over the same six-year term. The other three players are Jon Singleton, Scott Kingery and Evan White, who each received far more modest deals.
There’s certainly risk in giving out a significant deal to a player who hasn’t proven himself at the big league level, but the Brewers know that there’s also risk in waiting. Not too long ago, they parted with Josh Hader as he continued to thrive and earn higher salaries via arbitration. There are rumors that they may have to consider a similar path with Corbin Burnes and Willy Adames, who are each about to make eight-figure salaries before reaching free agency after 2024.
If the Brewers are able to get something done with Chourio, it should decrease their chances of finding themselves in a similar position in the future. If the deal goes beyond six years, as Rosenthal reports it will, it would also increase his chances of cracking the Opening Day roster in 2024. The club would then have no incentive to keep him down in the minors to start the year and try to gain an extra year of control.
If the club considers Chourio a viable option to start next year in the big leagues, it could perhaps give them an outfield surplus to trade from. They already have Christian Yelich, Garrett Mitchell, Sal Frelick, Joey Wiemer and Tyrone Taylor in the mix for playing time, with Blake Perkins and Chris Roller on the roster as depth options. Making someone in that group available on the trading block could perhaps allow the club to upgrade its infield or pitching staff during an offseason where there are few impact bats available and the demand for pitching is incredibly high.
Most extensions generally ramp up in terms of salary over time, vaguely resembling what a player might have received in the normal course of going through arbitration. The player gets some certainty over future earnings and protection against a significant injury while the club gains some extra control over the player’s future. Other than Yelich, the Brewers have very little on their long-term books. Aaron Ashby is signed through 2027 with two club options, while Freddy Peralta’s deal goes through 2024 with two club options.
Though there have been plenty of rumors about Burnes and Adames being dealt, it’s generally been expected that those theoretical deals would bring back MLB-ready talent to allow the club to continue competing despite their budgetary limitations. They clearly think Chourio can be a big part of their ability to keep the good times rolling and hope to keep him around for a while. For Chourio, he could potentially sign a 10-year deal and still reach free agency before his 30th birthday. Whether the two sides can find something that works for everyone remains to be seen.