And, even in his 36-year-old season in 2019, he won the Cy Young award in the American League with a fantastic 2.58 ERA in 223 innings.
He suffered ligament damage in his elbow early in the 2020 season and required Tommy John surgery, so he missed most of last year and will likely be out for the whole 2021 campaign as well.
His contract with the Astros will finalize after 2021, and he will test the free agent waters in the offseason.
He has already stated he has the intention of keep pitching, and lots of contenders would love to have him on their roster.
What kind of contract will he command?
An Elite Veteran Arm Who Lost The Last Two Seasons
The Astros signed Verlander to a two-year, $66 million contract extension in March 2019.
It covered the 2020 and 2021 seasons which he, unfortunately, mostly lost because of his Tommy John surgery.
Justin Verlander will have Tommy John Surgery. His contract ends after next Season. We probably have seen him pitch his last pitch for the #Astros. Some lucky team that signs him even at his age is probably going to get an even better @JustinVerlander.
— Bob Slovak (@BobSlovakSports) September 19, 2020
At $33 million, the agreement was the highest-ever average annual salary for a pitcher at the time.
The 2019 season was the last in which Verlander was fully healthy.
That year, he showed he still can pitch at a high level, with the aforementioned 2.58 ERA in 223 innings.
He struck out 300 hitters en route to his second Cy Young award.
— Daren Willman (@darenw) November 13, 2019
However, the fact that he lost virtually two seasons of his late-thirties will likely diminish his value somewhat.
Interested teams will now likely have to pay for his 39-year-old season, and that’s usually not a very good idea.
However, Verlander is in a league by himself, so he will likely get some money from a team that is one or two top-tier pitchers short of contending for the World Series.
Who Could Pursue Him?
As far as which teams can go after Verlander in the free agent market, there could be a competition for his services.
Elite pitching is always at a premium, so there will be suitors.
The Astros can’t be discounted even if they have managed to put together some impressive starting pitching depth.
But Zack Greinke is also a free agent after the 2021 season and that’s significant money coming off the books that could be used to re-sign Verlander.
The perpetually pitching-starved New York Yankees can’t be ruled out, either, and they could theoretically have more payroll flexibility.
The New York Mets, with the wealthiest owner in MLB, will surely be in play, too.
Other contenders such as the Chicago White Sox, the San Diego Padres, and the Los Angeles Dodgers could be options.
As for what kind of deal Verlander could sign, it’s likely that he asks for a two-year pact, or at the very least a one-year deal with a player option or a vesting option.
His salary could be in the $30 million per season range, which is almost in line with what he made in the last two years; perhaps a little less but not much.
He may be old and injury-prone, but Verlander will surely have a market.