Last month, the Astros came to an agreement with Justin Verlander to bring back the eight-time All-Star. While the agreement and terms were reported in mid-November, the deal was somewhat curiously not made official prior to the December 2 lockout.
That’s no longer an issue, as Buster Olney of ESPN reports (on Twitter) that Major League Baseball has formally approved the agreement. Jon Heyman of the MLB Network adds that the contract was submitted to MLB on December 1, in the waning hours before the expiration of the 2016-21 collective bargaining agreement. Because it was submitted for approval before the lockout, MLB and the MLB Players Association have approved the deal even during the ongoing freeze of 40-man roster transactions.
It’s still not precisely clear what caused the atypically long hold-up, although Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic tweets that the now-resolved issue had to do with some “language in the contract.” That’s essentially a moot point now, as Verlander is again officially a member of the Astros. The originally-reported contract terms (a two-year, $50MM guarantee with an opt-out provision after the first season) remain in effect, tweets Heyman.
Verlander has only made one start over the past two seasons on account of Tommy John surgery. When last healthy, the former AL MVP posted one of the strongest seasons of his illustrious career. Over 223 innings in 2019, Verlander pitched to a 2.58 ERA/2.95 SIERA en route to his second career Cy Young award. The Astros are placing a sizable bet he’ll return to that star form coming off surgery and turning 39 years old in February. Of course, the Houston front office has kept a keen eye on Verlander’s recovery process throughout the past 14 months.
The Astros entered the lockout with an open spot on the 40-man roster, perhaps in anticipation of this exact scenario. No corresponding move will need to be made.