Justin Verlander is reportedly sticking with a familiar setting for his first season back from Tommy John surgery in 2022.
The veteran ace has decided to re-sign with the Houston Astros after three-and-a-half seasons with the team, according to his brother, Ben Verlander, who currently works for Fox Sports.
🚨IT’S OFFICIAL🚨@JustinVerlander is signing with Houston Astros!!
— Ben Verlander (@BenVerlander) November 17, 2021
We'd imagine that's a pretty reliable source.
The deal is for one year with a $25 million salary and a second-year player option, according to Fox 26's Mark Berman.
Less than an hour before the report, Verlander had officially become one of 17 MLB players to reject their qualifying offers, against just one who accepted. Had Verlander signed with another team after rejecting the $18.4 million qualifying offer, the Astros would have been entitled to draft pick compensation while the signing team would have lost a pick or two, depending on where Verlander signed and for how much.
Clearly, Verlander wasn't too interested in checking out the market before re-upping with Houston.
Verlander missed all of 2021 season
The reported terms of the deal may look like a sort of a prove-it deal, but effectively guaranteeing $50 million to a pitcher who will be 39 years old next season and has pitched six innings since 2019 is no small investment for the Astros.
Verlander missed most of the 2020 season and all of the 2021 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and his availability for opening day in 2022 may still be up in the air. Now, he can enter next season knowing he can exercise his player option should he struggle in his return, or hit the free market again should he thrive.
Before his surgery, Verlander was still among the best pitchers in baseball. His changes in approach since joining the Astros have been well-documented and have translated to a 2.45 ERA and 640 strikeouts in 477 innings. In that time, he's won a Cy Young Award and a World Series ring, and led the league in wins and strikeouts.
The Astros will be hoping for some kind of return to form next year. The team's rotation was overall a strength in 2021, ranking second in the AL in ERA at 3.60 with a staff led by Lance McCullers Jr., Luis Garcia and Framber Valdez, but getting a full-strength Verlander would vault the unit back to the elite status it enjoyed in previous years.
What of Carlos Correa?
Re-upping with Verlander answers one major question for the Astros, but at least one big one still remains.
Carlos Correa was the other Astros free agent to reject the qualifying offer, and a return to the team is looking much less likely for the shortstop. Correa is expected to see offers somewhere in the range of $200 million-plus, well below the team's initial reported offer of $160 million. Also hitting the free agent market from the Astros are veteran pitcher Zack Greinke, catcher Martin Maldonado and reliever Kendall Graveman.
With Verlander now on the books, the Astros have approximately $161 million committed to their 2022 26-man payroll. There might not be much more room for Correa, at least as far as owner Jim Crane is willing to spend.