The Houston Astros won 95 games in the 2021 season and got to the World Series.
They couldn’t beat the Atlanta Braves there, but they had a very good campaign nonetheless.
They did it all without one of their best starters, Justin Verlander, who was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.
They knew that the veteran right-hander could have thrown his last pitch in an Astros uniform in 2020, because he entered free agency in 2021.
However, and despite interest from a couple of East Coast teams such as the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers, Verlander agreed to return to Houston on a two-year deal with an opt out after 2021.
The Terms Of The Deal
The terms of the deal are as follow: Houston will pay Verlander $50 million over the next two seasons, exactly $25 per season.
— Ben Verlander (@BenVerlander) November 17, 2021
The second year will depend on the player: he will get the chance to opt out of the deal after 2022.
So, if Verlander has a strong season and wants to re-enter the market next year, he will have the ability to do that.
The former Cy Young award and MVP winner had rejected the Astros’ one-year, $18.4 million qualifying offer.
The pitcher took the mound only one time in the last two seasons before injuring his elbow and requiring Tommy John surgery in September 2020, during the pandemic year.
The last time he was healthy for a full season, in 2019, he won the Cy Young award by pitching 223 innings of 2.58 ERA.
It’s evident that, when healthy, Verlander is a game-changing talent, even at 38 years old.
He offers the Astros a unique combination of elite talent and big workloads, as his arm is used to pitching 200 or more frames.
It remains to be seen if he regains his form after a long-term absence, but if he does, Houston will remain a very dangerous team, the one to beat in the American League West.
The division is getting tighter because of the Seattle Mariners’ emergence and the Los Angeles Angels’ intentions of bringing in pitching reinforcements (confirmed by the Noah Syndergaard signing).
Houston Looks A Lot Better With Verlander In The Rotation
But one has to think that bringing back Verlander puts the Astros back over the top.
They were able to win 95 games in 2021 without him: if he returns in top form, he might help them push for 100 wins provided they can bring in a quality replacement for shortstop Carlos Correa.
More importantly, Verlander is a proven pitcher with experience in the postseason, and we saw some of the Astros’ best starters falter in the playoffs this year.
It goes without saying, but this is a massive signing for the Astros.
It was clear they needed rotation help after this year’s postseason run, and JV provides that in a big way.
The last time Verlander was healthy, he won the Cy Young.
This team isn’t going anywhere. https://t.co/O4IMTisc78
— Brad Kellner (@BradKellner) November 17, 2021
That’s a solid group for a team with one of the league’s top offenses.
As long as they can bring in a good shortstop and pay attention to their bullpen, the Verlander signing will help the Astros stay among the very best teams in the AL.