The Astros and Justin Verlander have agreed to a 2-year, $66 million contract extension, wrapping-up a week involving nearly $940 million in extensions throughout MLB. Verlander’s new contract makes him the league’s highest-paid pitcher in terms of average annual value ($33 million, slightly ahead of Zack Greinke‘s $32.5 million), and the second highest-paid player in MLB history, trailing only Mike Trout ($35,541,667 million AAV). Negotiations between Verlander and the Astros were first reported on Friday afternoon, after team owner Jim Crane suggested a deal would be reached by the end of spring training. Verlander will earn $28 million in 2019, the final year of the 7-year, $180 million extension that he signed six years ago with the Detroit Tigers.
Verlander, 36, was acquired by the Astros in a trade with Detroit on August 31, 2017. After the trade, he went 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA in 5 regular season starts and 4-1 with a 2.21 ERA in the postseason to help the team earn its first ever World Series Title; Verlander was named ALCS MVP in the process. Last season, Verlander went 16-9 with a 2.52 ERA and finished 2nd in the AL Cy Young race after leading the AL in strikeouts (290) and quality starts (26) in 214 innings.
Extending Verlander was crucial for the Astros, given that 4/5 of the team’s starting rotation was set to enter free agency after the 2019 season (Verlander, Cole, McHugh, and Miley). Despite his advanced age, Verlander has shown no signs of decline: since arriving in Houston in September 2017, his regular season performance ranks 1st in MLB in WHIP (0.87), 2nd in Ks (333), 3rd in Opp. BAA (.193), 3rd in IP (248), 3rd in K/9 (12.08), 4th in ERA (2.32), 4th in Opp. OPS (.548), and 5th in FIP (2.66). Verlander’s presence will also provide stability atop the rotation until the emergence of the Astros’s next generation of young starters, including Forrest Whitley, J.B. Bukauskas, Corbin Martin, and Brandon Bielak.
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