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MLB Rumors: Justin Verlander, Astros 'Far Apart' in Contract Talks; SP Wants $130M

Adam WellsDecember 2, 2022

Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander throws against the Philadelphia Phillies during the first inning in Game 5 of baseball's World Series between the Houston Astros and the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Reigning American League Cy Young winner Justin Verlander's price tag may be more expensive than the Houston Astros are willing to spend.

Per Jon Heyman of the New York Post, Verlander and the Astros are "far apart" in contract talks with the 39-year-old seeking a deal worth $130 million over three years.

Heyman listed the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets as potential landing spots for Verlander if things go south with the Astros.

A three-year, $130 million deal would match what Max Scherzer got from the Mets last offseason. The contract made him the highest-paid player in Major League Baseball by average annual salary ($43.3 million).

The Mets' interest in Verlander may be a contingency plan in the event they don't re-sign Jacob deGrom. Heyman reported on Thursday that people in the Mets' organization believe deGrom "prefers to return" to New York.

The Yankees are still waiting on Aaron Judge to make a decision. They have a need for another frontline starter with Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes. It would also make them better and potentially weaken an Astros team that has knocked them out of the playoffs three times since 2017.

The Dodgers saw last season the downside of not having a true No. 1 starter in the playoffs. They have so much depth on the roster that they won 111 games in the regular season, but they didn't get more than five innings from any of their starters in the NLDS loss to the San Diego Padres.

There are some differences between the two star pitchers that make Houston's apparent apprehension understandable. Scherzer signed his deal heading into his age-37 season and has never had a major shoulder or elbow injury in his career.

Verlander will turn 40 on Feb. 20 and missed the entire 2021 season due to Tommy John surgery. The nine-time All-Star returned in near-peak form in 2022 with an MLB-best 1.75 ERA and 0.83 WHIP over 175 innings in 28 starts. He earned his third career AL Cy Young award.

The Astros are operating from a position of strength. Even if Verlander signs elsewhere, they will still have Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Luis Garcia and José Urquidy in the rotation. They could potentially use the money they would have spent on Verlander to sign another free-agent starter if they decide to move on.