Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander has opted out of the final year of his contract this morning, per reports, and is now officially a free agent.
This move has been seen as a given for some time. Verlander, coming off Tommy John surgery, and having made just one appearance since 2019, signed a deal for 2022 with the Astros that paid him $25 million in 2022, with a $25 million player option for 2023.
Verlander led the majors in ERA and was fourth in the American League among pitchers in bWAR (one spot above Martin Perez (!), who was fifth), and is seen as the favorite for the Cy Young Award. Even with Verlander turning 40 in February, and having missed 2020-21 due to injury, he is going to get a significant raise from the $25 million he would have made if he hadn’t opted out.
While there will be a bunch of teams who will have interest in Verlander, it seems unlikely he would leave Houston at this point. I’d expect him to do another deal similar to the one he just finished, with a bunch bigger salary — say, $40M for 2023, with a $40M player option for 2024. Or maybe just a one year deal at $45-50M.