McCullers, 27, went 3-3 with a 3.93 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 56 strikeouts in 55 innings last year. He missed the 2019 campaign with a torn UCL that forced him to undergo Tommy John surgery. McCullers went 10-8 with a 3.86 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in the year prior alongside 142 punchouts in 128.1 frames.
Per Jon Heyman of WFAN Sports Radio and MLB Network, the extension starts during the 2022 season, so McCullers will play 2021 out on a one-year, $6.5 million pact he and Houston agreed to in January to avoid arbitration.
Therefore, the Astros' 2021 payroll will remain unaffected by the McCullers contract. Cot's Contracts already puts Houston's projected 2021 payroll at $184.2 million, MLB's fifth-highest mark overall.
More than half of that payroll is tied to three players in starting pitchers Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke and second baseman Jose Altuve ($95,075,089 total).
Houston only had $75.95 million in payroll committed to players in 2022 prior to the McCullers deal. Verlander and Greinke will be off the books in 2022, making McCullers the highest-paid pitcher currently signed with the team beyond this year.
Looking ahead, the Astros also have a big decision to make regarding shortstop Carlos Correa, who will be a free agent after this year. Correa and Houston avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $11.7 million contract in his last year under team control.
Houston has already committed to long-term deals with Altuve and Alex Bregman, who are signed through 2024. Otherwise, Michael Brantley is back in town and will get $32 million over the next two years.
The Astros will open the 2021 season on April 1 at the Oakland Athletics.