Justin Verlander breezed through the Guardians lineup tonight, tossing six innings of scoreless ball. It was another dominant performance in a season full of them for the AL Cy Young award contender, and today’s start also marked a notable contractual development. Verlander reached 130 innings on the season, meaning he’s officially vested a $25MM player option for the 2023 campaign.
Verlander is trending towards foregoing that option, as he’s in position to handily surpass a $25MM average annual value as a free agent. The nine-time All-Star commanded an identical salary this year on the heels of a season in which he didn’t pitch as he rehabbed from 2020 Tommy John surgery. Amidst one of the best seasons of a Hall of Fame career, Verlander is trending towards a massive raise. That’s particularly true since he received and rejected a qualifying offer last winter, meaning the Astros cannot offer another QO next offseason. A signing club thus won’t have to forfeit any draft pick or international signing bonus space this time around. Barring injury or a completely out-of-the-blue collapse in the final couple months, he’ll shatter a $25MM guarantee on the free agent market.
After tonight’s start, Verlander now carries a major league best 1.73 ERA. His 25.5% strikeout rate isn’t at the elite 35.1% level he posted between 2018-20, but it’s still four points above the MLB average for starters. With league-best run prevention, Verlander’s dip in strikeouts isn’t likely to have too significant an effect on his value on the open market. That’s particularly true since his 95 MPH average fastball velocity has remained intact after the elbow surgery, and he’s continued to spin both his fastball and breaking pitches at a high-end level. Verlander also owns some of the best command in the sport, and the 2011 AL MVP has proven capable of thriving on the biggest stage. He carries a career 3.40 ERA in 187 2/3 postseason innings, and he’ll have an opportunity to build on that resume with Houston this October.
Verlander’s exceptional track record sets up one of the more fascinating free agent cases of the upcoming offseason. He’s clearly reestablished himself as one of the sport’s best pitchers, the kind of ace clubs would be happy to trot out in the opening game of a playoff series. A new deal will begin with his age-40 campaign, however, setting him up for a short-term contract with a massive annual salary.
The obvious comparison point is the record-setting contract scored by his former teammate Max Scherzer last winter. The three-time Cy Young winner signed a three-year, $130MM deal with the Mets. That obliterated the previous all-time high annual salary, with Scherzer’s $43.333MM annual payout topping any previous contract’s yearly salary by more than $7MM. Scherzer was coming off a 179 1/3 inning, 2.46 ERA campaign in which he struck out 34.1% of opponents between the Nationals and Dodgers. That better swing-and-miss stuff might tip the nod in Scherzer’s favor, but Verlander and his representatives at ISE Baseball seem likely to try to top that AAV record — particularly if he holds a sub-2.00 ERA all year. Even if he doesn’t quite hit Scherzer’s heights, beating the $36MM annual salary that ranks second all-time feels attainable for Verlander.
It’ll be equally interesting to see the length of the contract Verlander might receive. Scherzer’s deal began with his age-37 campaign and takes him through 39, Verlander’s current age. With Verlander still at the top of his game, a multi-year pact feels likely. Whether a team would go to three years and sign him through age-42 remains to be seen.
The upcoming starting pitching market features a few high-end arms, although most have injury or age concerns. With Joe Musgrove agreeing to a five-year extension to stick in his hometown San Diego, players like Jacob deGrom, Carlos Rodón and Verlander look to be the top hurlers on the market (assuming all three trigger opt-out clauses in their contracts).
Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Bassitt are above-average starters but each are already in their mid-30s. Noah Syndergaard has looked like a solid mid-rotation arm but isn’t throwing as hard or missing as many bats as he did at his peak with the Mets. Sean Manaea has an underwhelming 4.24 ERA on the year, although he’s typically a solid mid-rotation type. Mike Clevinger will be entering his age-32 season and missed all of last year rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Zach Eflin is one of the younger arms available and generally solid when healthy, but he’s dealt with recurring knee injuries in his career that have again arisen this season. Clayton Kershaw seemingly limited his market last winter with geographic restrictions. It’s a class that won’t be lacking for star power, but there’s also a fair bit of uncertainty with most of the veteran hurlers who’ll be out there.
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.
He is unbelievable.
Superstar Prospect Wander Javier
You’d have to be pretty special to wife up Kate Upton
vincent k. mcmahon
Well I just want Kate, you can have him.
May Inremind you that it is a sin to covet thy neighbors wife. But thy neighbors husband is fair game apparently.
Dylan Cease will be Cy Young Award winner.
He was already cheated from being selected All Star!
AL Pitcher of the month, 2 in a row!!!
What numbers does Cease have that are better than Verlander’s? None that i can see.
Superstar Prospect Wander Javier
Ks, that’s it. They are definitely the 2 front runners, though.
Not to mention..that’s a lot of walks.
One year 46 million. No reason for any team who is smart to offer a 2nd year.
but will he be as good on a team that doesn’t cheat?
His agent would be unwise to eliminate half the league bc of mere subjective ethical behavior.
@case- Yes, great question. Poor Kate.
typical Los Karen response
Go back to sleep, fool!
Yeah! If I were MLB I’d check him since Astros like to or know how to cheat!
More like a typical Rocker49 response. You’ve got problems dude…
Mostly it would just affect the pricing. If you use Gerrit Cole as a similar situation then you could probably expect about an average .7 rise in ERA. Of course, the league cracked down on the Astro’s “proprietary blends” of stick’em and Verlander still seems to be doing well, but who knows what else they’re up to?
The reason is that one year won’t land him.
2 years 85m. He’ll get at least two years. Has anyone every had a better age 40 season.
not as good, but nolan ryan in 1989 at age 42 is up there (if we’re going for age 40 or older season).
16-10, 3.20 era, mlb best 301 strikeouts, mlb leader in fewest hits per 9 and strikeouts per 9.
nolan did lead the nl in era, majors in strikeouts at age 40, but also went just 8-16.
That’s cause he was on some crappy Rangers teams in the early 90s. He just missed out on the offensive explosion that was coming. (Players were there but not in prime yet). Gonzalez, pudge, raffy, Palmer, etc etc
Yes. Randy Johnson did.
I figured Johnson was one, but the fact is Verlander is still excellent and someone will give him at least a two year contract.
Roger Clemens age 40 season:
17-9, 3.91 ERA, 211.2 innings, 190 SO’s, 58 Walks, ERA+ 113 in 33 starts
Age 41 season;
18-4, 2.98 ERA, 214.1 innings, 218 SO’s, 79 Walks, ERA+ 145 in 33 starts
Age 42 season:
13-8, 1.87 ERA, 211.1 innings, 185 SO’s, 62 Walks, ERA+ 226, in 32 starts
Lets not forget Ryan threw his final two No-Hitters at age 41 (1990 vs Athletics) and 42 (1991 vs Blue Jays), and issued a world class beatdown of Robin Ventura at age 44 (1993 vs White Sox)
But he had some, er, help.
Yea, but he was also allowed to potentially injure hitters because they were “crowding the plate” or doing something else that harmed his effectiveness. In the AL there was no way the opposing team could punish him for it, the umps certainly wouldn’t in that era of baseball. It’s like trying to compare 80’s basketball statistics from when zone defense was illegal.
if the ERA is 1.73 the K rate doesn’t matter.
if he does, wouldn’t he be the third oldest pitcher to win Cy Young? Roger Clemens was 42 when he won his last CYA in ’04, Gaylord Perry was 40 when he won it in 1978. Was there another 39-year-old who was born a few days earlier in the year than Verlander?
Steven St Croix
Him and Crane are tight, which is an advantage if there is a bidding war . If he leaves Houston, they will probably just bring someone up, Hunter Brown, and they will still win the division and go to another ALCS.
I agree. Houston will offer him an amazing one year deal. However, if he walks, the team still has 6 excellent SPs.
Justin Verlander is like fine wine.
@goastros123- please stop talking about your man crush like that! Did you buy your Trey Mancini jersey yet?
Working on it.
You definitely should. A really good player, and even a better person.
Maybe. I already got an Altuve jersey.
Why would you buy a jersey for a rental?
That’s crazy 2/20 is my anniversary with my girl. And JV day!!!
So in the event that Verlander would win the CYA, would he be the thrid oldest pitcher to win the award? Roger Clemens was 42 when he won it in 2004 and G@ylord Perry was 40 when he won it in 1978. Was there another guy who won it in his age-39 seaosn who was born earlier in the year than Verlander?
(Perry’s first name gets caught in the filters, which is why I had to use the @ symbol)
Yes, I know Early Winn was 39 for the Pale Hose in ’59. This was before the League started voting for two different winners in 1966. When is the Cy awarded this year? We can probably do the age-math if we knew the variables!
I guess he was older than Verlander. Wynn was born on January 6th while Verlander was born February 20.
Gwynning, the date the award is announced is irrelevant. It’s their birthday that matters.
I was thinking too literal, as in “how old to the DAY were they when they WON the award.” I get it now. It was late when I posted and there may have been some microbrews involved. 8)
R.A. Dickey was up there when he won.
One of the front runners for AL Cy Young and Comeback Player of the Year.
What a great pitcher. If there is anyone Crane will keep it will be JV. Will probably take a 3 year $135M deal but Crane will sign off on that for JV.
I’m hoping 3/105. I fear Crane would balk at more.
I think this is the one exception. And JV is tight with Crane. It was Crane that told James Click to sign him for this year.
I don’t think the Astros will offer him a three year deal. The Astros have 6 excellent SPs without Verlander.
For 35M/year, the team can get fix 1B, C, and sign 2 relievers.
I would only do 1 year deals for Verlander at this point. Offer him 44M. If that’s not enough, pass.
Verlander wants to stay with the Astros.
Best pitcher of his generation.
He and Scherzer. It’ll take the end of their careers to determine who was the best.
Prime Kershaw is on their level as well. I don’t think there’s a clear best, but lots of living legends
Maybe that match up again in the WS.
Outside shot at being the last pitcher to ever get 300 wins. Should be ~245+ by the end of the season. He’d probably need four more years to get there. I wouldn’t put it past him to pitch until his mid 40s to get there.
I want a 4 Year Deal. $150 Mil
I’d take 4 years at the league minimum, but my ERA would be close to infinity.
I bet I could eephus an out or two a season. Then my ERA would only be 7000000, not infinity
Unfortunately for Tigers fans, the rebuild isn’t over. So, it makes no sense for them to sign him now. Maybe in a couple years.
He will retire a Tiger. Just watch.
Unfortunately he wants to play on a WS contender.
Hello Justin, interested in coming to Philly?
To think he and Scherzer were in the same team. Damn.
And the Giants still swept them
I think he’ll take a 1 year deal that will shatter the single season salary record, which I believe is both officially and technically held by Scherzer between his $43.333M salary and his $15M deferral from the Nats.
So yeah I think someone might give him 1 year/$60M, even if it’s 1 year/$46M w/ a $14M buyout on a $49M mutual option or something.
Will never happen! if he does not take the 25million, he will be shown the door!
Has anyone bothered to tell him that hes almost 40 years old? This man is ridiculous lol
Mind over matter
If you don’t mind it don’t matter
Phil Niekro pitched effectively until he was 48. He wasn’t just a knuckle ball pitcher.
@GarryHarris- I miss Phil Niekro! I heard he’s making a comeback?
As a pitcher he is absolutely awesome. As a human being he is an arrogant hypocritical punk.
How long have you known him?
Superstar Prospect Wander Javier
Were you the girl he left for Kate Upton?
I get like that when I don’t sleep and have too much caffeine…. It happens more than I dare to admit.
Imagine being a top 3 pitcher in your generation, dominant every night, and going home to Kate Upton. Legend.
C Yards Jeff
Who “owns the pants” in this relationship, anyway? Wonder if Kate has a say in Justin’s career plans?
I would imagine as a couple, they would discuss things and make the best decision for themselves. We’re well past the 1950s.
C Yards Jeff
@gbs42; said in jest as I think your response was as well. Yep. Agreed. They talk it out. But let’s say Kate, I believe a Yankees fan, sways Justin in that direction?
The 2022 Cy Young winner and future Hall of Famer. Check out the #s. It was not Verlander or Scherzers fault they didn’t win a WS together the Tigers couldn’t hit.
Miguel Cabrera. Ian Kinsler, Nick Castellanos. J.D. Martinez, Austin Jackson. Torii Hunter. Victor Martinez. Rajai Davis.
2012 giants pitching could match and they had timely hitting with lights out bullpen. Many thought the tigers would sweep. Ziti out pitching Verlander in game one was classic. Who could predict Panda hitting 3 homers on 3 pitches that weren’t strikes. Fun times for Giants fans. Reliving those memories help when you team sucks.
Who was Detroit’s SS back then – Jhonny Peralta or already José Iglesias? And was JD Martinez already on the roster?
JD was not there. Peralta was SS and Victor missed the entire season due to injury.
Imagine going home, knowing every night your team has cheated every time you’ve pitched, so you can win? And then going home to Kate Upton, who is really a Yankee fan? Myth.
You have quite an imagination, bringing events from five years ago into the present.
Your team is mincemeat for the Stros. Every year since 2015 and forever. Hope you continue to dream about trash cans.
Imagine constantly bringing up the cheating that happened 5 years ago when it has come out since that not only were the Astros doing it, but the Yankees spent MILLIONS of dollars on lawyer fee to keep out the Manfried letter that says the Yankees were doing it as well? You seem to forget that we have won the division. 4 out of 5 years, been to the world series 2 more times since then. I know you feel like the Yanks got cheated in 17 but look at all the things that have been accomplished SINCE then. Your starting to sound like that old man in the coffee shop..” back in my day..”
@Justanotherastrofan- Nothing like that old man in the coffee shop, you could obviously learn a lot from him. And 5 years ago was not a long time ago, cheating is cheating. Cheating and winning a World Series is disgusting!
At this point, baseball has a long history of cheating. MLB is even turning a blind eye to foreign substance use by pitchers in 2022, because it seems to be the good foreign substances of the past.
‘Every time’ Justin Verlander pitched his team cheated? He won’t be a HOFer? Those great numbers while he pitched with Tigers are not real either? 🙁
Something people don’t understand about the Astros, Yankees, Red Sox, all of those, is it was just the hitters. JV happened to be on the team, but he had nothing to do with it. And there’s no way you would call it out, it be suicide.
I don’t see JV as much of a hired gun type of player. He was extremely loyal to the tigers even when they weren’t winning. He’s after hardware and this team is built for winning. We finally have an owner who isn’t scared to spend, a young team that’s been consistently winning, and JV seems to like it here quite a bit. He spoke himself how he’s been able to turn things around since coming here. He had a +4 era when he was traded and look at him now. With his close relationship with Jim Crane, I can see 2/90 or 3/135 as reasonable for his pitching but more importantly for his leadership in the clubhouse and his mentoring of the younger pitchers. He just doesn’t strike me as a guy who is going to jump ship for a few extra bucks.
How are Daz Cameron, Franklin Perez, and Jake Rogers doing with the tigers?
Mean, but accurate!
Franklin Perez’s injuries immediately after leaving Houston hurts
He’d be an interesting case study for young pitchers to know how he maintained himself and kept himself fairly healthy to have such a great career. He’s been throwing 86mph since high school.
Yes, at least according to this writeup:
2yr 90 does the trick. Someone pays it if the Astros don’t. Set AAV record and not locked into eventual decline. He’s great but no one beats age. It will catch up just a matter of when
At his age, and the achievements he’s accomplished, it would make more sense to take 1 or 2 year contracts with high AAVs and just accumulate more stats and make money. He’s proven he can still pitch so let him till he can no longer.
He probably has the best sticky stuff.
WOW! 25 million for next year, regardless of what happens at the end of this year! His agent and him got a great deal. Only in America. I would have never signed him this year, but I would be a cheap GM like the Brewers are forced to be!
He will want at least 3 years.
He wants to pitch till he’s 45 and he wants to win 300 games which will likely take at least 4 seasons.
I have not seen any reason to bet against him.
Offer him 4yrs $120 lower AAV to ensure he has time.
He will give a slight but not big hometeam discount.
He does not want to be viewed as a mercenary or compiler to get 300
Wants as few teams as possible on his record, and a contending team to win as soon as possible.