Your loyal scribe was riding home from a haircut and listening to the good folks on local talk radio discuss the JV “Situation”. The situation concerning Justin Verlander is that he easily rolled past a contract goal in his last start (130 innings), which automatically meant that should he opt for it, he can make another $25 MM in 2023 as the Astros ace.
The giant elephant in the room is that if Verlander continues pitching the rest of the season as he has done to date, he will opt out of 2023 with Houston and go reel in a multi-year contract for a lot more bucks. Throwing a number out, there might be something in the area of 3 years / $120 MM.
On the radio, one of the hosts had drawn a line in the sand and said if Verlander opts out, the Astros should do what they did with Gerrit Cole, George Springer, and Carlos Correa. Let him walk and invest elsewhere. They have sustained their success by not investing in too much long term and not getting caught upside down with those types of contracts.
Let’s take a look at both sides of this argument….
Why the Astros should pursue signing Justin Verlander after the season….
- He’s one of the best pitchers of his generation and has been one of the best pitchers in either league since his coming to Houston. Since the waiver trade deadline in 2017, he is 58-18 with a 2.30 ERA and a 0.839 WHIP. His 2022 may be the best of the full seasons he has produced to date.
- He is a team leader, as best exemplified by his popping out of the clubhouse during the 2017 World Series and exhorting his teammates to show how great they really were.
- He is a mentor. Look at how his sit-down with Jake Odorizzi turned him around earlier this season.
- He wants to be here. He signed his current contract with the Astros almost immediately upon becoming a free agent. He could easily have wandered around looking for a few MM’s more, but he did not.
- If there is a pitcher, who is going to be the baseball equivalent of Tom Brady and sustain his high-end stuff into his 40s, this is the guy. He is the closest thing there is to another Nolan Ryan.
- They were able to absorb his $66 MM in salary in 2020 and 2021 when he only pitched 6 innings and made it to the ALCS and the World Series.
Why the Astros should let Justin wander elsewhere after the season…..
- By the time the 2023 season begins, he will be 40 years old. He is not Phil Niekro living off a knuckler or like Zach Greinke living off slow and slower junk balls. He is a pitcher who lives off that upper 90’s fastball paired with a devastating curve. If that fastball starts to wane a bit in his 40s, will he be a lot more hittable?
- He was not such a team leader/ mentor that he would show up for his teammates when he was out for two seasons.
- The Astros have become the most consistently fine baseball team since 2015 by signing reasonable lengths and dollars for their contracts and by not making sentimental signings.
- Perhaps if he wanted to be here so badly, he would have signed the newest contract before the Astros made a Qualifying Offer to him. Once the QO was made, another one could not be made if he opts out of his contract and goes a free agent for 2023. No QO means a draft pick is not tied to signing him for next season and makes him a more attractive pickup.
- He’s already missed two seasons with the Astros due to injury. Do we want to risk that again as he turns 40?
There are undoubtedly more reasons for or against keeping him. I would vote to keep him for another three seasons under the heading “It’s Not My Money”. What do you think?