Likely American League Cy Young winner and two-time World Series champion Justin Verlander surprisingly opted out of his contract after hoisting his latest trophy.
The 39-year-old future Hall of Famer was set to earn $25 million in 2023. But he figures a higher average annual salary could be in the cards with the MLB free agent market expected to play out here in the coming weeks.
It has seemed like a foregone conclusion that Verlander, 39, would ultimately end up re-signing with the Astros. That’s no longer the case with the nine-time All-Star seeing potential fits with big spenders on the open market. This includes the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets.
“Verlander, who personally negotiated his free-agent deal with Astros owner Jim Crane while vacationing in Italy last offseason, seemed a good bet to re-sign quickly with Houston,” Ken Rosenthal report on Justin Verlander’s free agency.
“But it has not happened, perhaps because Verlander sees the potential for lucrative opportunities with the Mets, Yankees and Dodgers, among others. Unlike deGrom and Rodón, he was not eligible for a qualifying offer. And because he did not receive one, he is not subject to draft-pick compensation.”
That last piece of information is interesting in that any team signing Verlander wouldn’t be on the hook to send draft pick compensation the other way. This has been a big deal surrounding MLB free agency in recent years.
As for Verlander and where he might end up, it could come down to the dollars. Fellow top-flight starter Jacob deGrom of the Mets is reportedly looking at $40 million annually on a short-term deal. It’s possible that Verlander could receive the same type of market, a clear indication that he made the right decision to opt out of his contract.
The New York Yankees as a fit for Justin Verlander
The Pinstripes come to mind as a perfect fit for this future Hall of Famer. He has a built-in relationship with current Yankees ace Gerrit Cole dating back to their days together with the Astros in 2018 and 2019.
New York is also in the market for a top-of-the-rotation arm following the disastrous performance from Frankie Montas after a blockbuster trade with the Oakland Athletics last summer. Verlander would be just that despite his advanced age.
- Justin Verlander stats (2022): 18-4 record, 1.75 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 185 strikeouts in 175 innings
This performance should net Verlander his third career Cy Young award. It also leads to the belief that he has a ton left in the tank. Current Yankees starter Jameson Taillon is a free agent. Meanwhile, the team dealt away Jordan Montgomery ahead of the in-season MLB trade deadline.
Related: 10 bold MLB free agent predictions
Los Angeles Dodgers could make big play for Justin Verlander
Despite re-signing Clayton Kershaw to a one-year deal early during free agency, Verlander also makes sense for the Dodgers after they fell short of their title aspirations in 2022.
Coming off a 111-win campaign, Los Angeles gave Tyler Anderson a qualifying offer of nearly $20 million. Should he decline that offer, at least one spot could open up in the rotation. Former ace Walker Buehler had Tommy John Surgery during the summer and will miss the entire 2023 season.
There’s certainly a need for the Dodgers here. The only question here is whether they want to take a chance by relying on two aging veterans with recent injury concerns. Remember, Verlander missed the entire 2021 campaign after he, too, underwent Tommy John Surgery. For his part, Kershaw has started only 22 games in each of the past two seasons.
As for the Mets’ interest in Justin Verlander, it’s all about whether Jacob deGrom returns to the team in free agency. If that doesn’t happen Houston’s ace could be a No. 2 option.