Justin Verlander needs Tommy John surgery. The Houston Astros righthanded pitcher announced the news on Instagram today. Verlander, who has been out most of 2020 due to an elbow issue that was initially said would likely cause him to miss the 2020 season, but with a chance he could come back late in the year, will now be out for the 2021 season.
The 37 year old Verlander signed a 2 year, $66 million deal last year that kept him in Houston and let the Astros avoid having both their top pitchers (Verlander and Gerrit Cole) hit the free agent market after 2019. Verlander will now be a free agent after next offseason, assuming he chooses to go through surgery and rehab and attempt to return.
This puts the Astros in a difficult situation this offseason. Expected to be one of the top teams in MLB this year, they have disappointed, and are currently a game under .500. They have approximately $110 million committed in 2021 to Verlander, 36 year old Zack Greinke, and Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, both of whom have had down seasons in 2020. They are likely looking at $40 million or so in arbitration for Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers, Jr., and Roberto Osuna. And they have George Springer, Josh Reddick, Michael Brantley and Yuli Gurriel all hitting the free agent market.
The Astros farm system is not strong after top pitching prospect Forrest Whitley, who has seen his stock drop over the past few years, and one has to wonder if owner Jim Crane will be willing to spend significantly to fill holes this offseason, or if the team might decide the window on this group has shut, and look to deal players like Greinke, Correa and McCullers.