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Justin Verlander Seeking Max Scherzer-Like Contract in Free Agency, Says Astros Owner

Doric SamNovember 16, 2022

HOUSTON, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 05: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros celebrates after defeating the Philadelphia Phillies 4-1 to win the 2022 World Series in Game Six of the 2022 World Series at Minute Maid Park on November 05, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Houston Astros owner Jim Crane is hoping the team doesn't lose ace pitcher Justin Verlander in free agency this offseason, but he knows it will take a massive deal to retain him.

Crane told MLB.com's Brian McTaggart that he believes Verlander is seeking a contract similar to that of New York Mets starter Max Scherzer, who signed a deal with the highest average annual value in MLB history last season at $43.3 million ($130 million over three years).

"I know him well, so we’ve been pretty candid," Crane said. "He’s looking at the comp, which I think there’s only one or two. … J.V.’s probably got a few years left, and he wants to make the most of it. I think he’s going to test the market on that."

Verlander, who will turn 40 in February, turned down a $25 million contract option to test the open market.

While Crane didn't mention what the franchise would be willing to offer Verlander to retain him, Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle recently reported that Crane is hoping to offer him a deal in the range of two years and $30-35 million annually. Rome added that while "multiple people familiar with Crane’s thinking said he’s set something of a limit in negotiations with Verlander," there's still a chance Crane would be willing to exceed those numbers.

The veteran right-hander enjoyed a stellar 2022 season in which he went 18-4 with a 1.75 ERA, a 0.83 WHIP and 185 strikeouts to establish himself as the favorite to win his third American League Cy Young Award. He then helped lead Houston to a World Series championship, defeating the Philadelphia Phillies in six games.

Verlander's 2022 campaign was a bounce-back performance after his lost 2020 and 2021 seasons. He made one start in 2020 before being shut down and forced to undergo Tommy John surgery, which caused him to miss the entirety of the following year.

Losing Verlander in free agency would be surprising for Houston, but the team should be able to manage the loss thanks to its deep starting rotation that includes Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier and Lance McCullers Jr.

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