Justin Verlander’s deal to return to the Astros became official this week. The contract guarantees him a $25MM salary in 2022 and reportedly contains a matching $25MM player option for the 2023 season. However, the Associated Press reports that Verlander’s option is conditional on him reaching 130 innings pitched next season.
Verlander should have a strong chance of reaching that tally. He’s no doubt locked into the Astros’ rotation, and he eclipsed 130 frames every year between 2006-19. The workhorse shattered that mark in every year other than 2015, surpassing 200 frames on twelve separate occasions. So long as he remains healthy, Verlander shouldn’t have any problem getting to 130 innings and at least giving himself the option of picking up some extra financial security.
That health caveat is an important one for any pitcher, though, and that’s particularly true in Verlander’s case. He’s thrown just six innings over the past two seasons on account of a 2020 elbow injury that necessitated Tommy John surgery. Verlander’s expected to be at full strength to start next year, and the Houston front office was clearly confident enough in his health to put a $25MM salary on the table. Yet requiring an innings threshold to vest the 2023 player option affords the team some cover in case the 38-year-old Verlander (39 in February) suffers another injury next season.
The terms of Verlander’s deal were reportedly agreed upon in mid-November, but the signing wasn’t finalized until this week. Some observers may have wondered whether concerns about Verlander’s surgically-repaired elbow could’ve been the cause for the delay, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Buster Olney of ESPN wrote this week that the lag between the reported agreement and the finalization of the deal was due to some sort of administrative hold-up on the part of Major League Baseball.