Justin Verlander's first career foray into free agency did not initially appear to last long. On Nov. 17, Verlander agreed to a new two-year, $50 million contract with the Houston Astros, and the deal allows him to opt out of Year 2 and test free agency. He re-signed with Houston . Verlander's younger brother, Ben, originally broke the news on Twitter.
However, for an unknown reason, Verlander's contract was not announced by the team before MLB's owners locked out the players right after the collective bargaining agreement expired at 11:59 p.m. ET on Dec. 1. Verlander was technically still a free agent when the lockout began.
That is no longer the case. MLB and the MLBPA have worked through the details and finalized Verlander's contract, reports ESPN's Buster Olney. The terms are unchanged -- it's a two-year, $50 million deal with an opt out -- and MLB Network's Jon Heyman says the contract was submitted to the league just before the lockout, allowing the league and union to finish the deal.
The soon-to-be 39-year-old Verlander has not pitched since Opening Day 2020 because of an elbow injury that would later require Tommy John surgery. By all accounts his rehab has gone well and Verlander will be ready to pitch come spring training. The Astros know Verlander's medicals better than anyone and obviously they felt comfortable re-signing him.
In 2019, his last full and health season, Verlander won the AL Cy Young and pitched to a 2.58 ERA in a league-leading 223 innings with elite strikeout (12.1 K/9) and walk (1.7 BB/9) numbers. Verlander is a future Hall of Famer and could return to that level right away in 2022, though Tommy John surgery comes with risk, especially at age 39.
With Verlander back in the fold, the Astros are expected to go into next season with Verlander, Luis Garcia, Lance McCullers Jr., José Urquidy, and Framber Valdez in their rotation in some order. Youngster Cristian Javier could slot in as the No. 6 starter or potentially move into a high-leverage bullpen role full-time.
Our R.J. Anderson ranked Verlander the No. 17 free agent on the market. Although he declined the qualifying offer, the Astros will neither receive nor forfeit draft picks as compensation for re-signing Verlander, and he will not be eligible for the qualifying offer again at any point in his career.