Justin Verlander potential team fits as free agent

With the 2022 season behind us and the Hot Stove ready to burn, we’re taking a close look at some of the most prominent players eligible for free agency.

Name: Justin Verlander
Position: Right-handed pitcher
Team: Houston Astros
Age (as of Opening Day 2023): 40
2022 stats: 18-4, 1.75 ERA, 175 IP, 185 K, 0.829 WHIP, 220 ERA+

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One year ago, Justin Verlander hit the open market with an enormous question mark hovering over his free agency: after making just one start since the beginning of 2020 and undergoing Tommy John surgery, what would the two-time American League Cy Young Award winner look like at the age of 39?

Verlander signed a one-year, $25 million deal with the Astros, a contract that included a $25 million player option for 2023 if he pitched at least 130 innings. The right-hander breezed by that mark, but his incredible season led him to decline the option, giving him an opportunity to test the market once again.

In terms of talent, Verlander is arguably the best starting pitcher on the free-agent market. But he’ll turn 40 in February, an age when most pitchers are looking at a decline and/or retirement. Then again, Verlander might be baseball’s answer to Tom Brady, who won an MVP award at the age of 40 and Super Bowl rings at 41 and 43.

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What will Verlander’s contract look like? Which teams will be in the mix to add the AL’s reigning Cy Young winner? Let’s take a look.

Verlander has been a perfect fit with the Astros since he arrived in September 2017, helping Houston to a pair of World Series titles and another American League pennant. He’s 61-19 with a 2.26 ERA in 102 starts for the Astros, but after opting out of his $25 million contract for 2023, the three-time AL Cy Young winner might price himself out of Houston’s market. The Astros have plenty of pitching, so it remains to be seen whether owner Jim Crane — who is quite fond of Verlander — will pay the price to assure he retires in Houston.

The Mets have their own ace on the free-agent market in Jacob deGrom, who is no sure bet to return to New York. Should deGrom leave, Verlander would be a shorter-term replacement for the two-time National League Cy Young winner, potentially pairing him with former Detroit teammate Max Scherzer. Of course, that would mean paying roughly $85 million per year for 38- and 40-year-old starters.

No team will be attached to more free-agent pitchers this offseason than Texas, which made a big splash last winter with the signings of Corey Seager and Marcus Semien for a combined $500 million. The Rangers are said to be in pursuit of a bona fide ace such as Verlander, though Texas has also been attached to pitchers including deGrom, Kodai Senga and Carlos Rodón.

The Yankees made a bid for Verlander last offseason before he ultimately re-upped with the Astros. New York figures to spend most of its time — and potentially its money — to bring Aaron Judge back to the Bronx, but if the AL MVP leaves town, the Yankees could pivot to…

Read More: Justin Verlander potential team fits as free agent 2022-11-23 08:48:11

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