October 5, 2022


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USATSI

Houston Astros right-hander Justin Verlander opened August with an impressive start Thursday night against the Cleveland Guardians. He threw six shutout innings, surrendering two hits and one walk against five strikeouts. The outing improved his season marks to a 1.73 ERA (221 ERA+) and 5.52 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 130 innings.

That last number happens to be important. By passing the 130-inning mark, Verlander triggered a conditional $25 million player option on his contract that was tied to his workload — an incentive the Astros asked for when they signed him last winter after he rehabbed Tommy John’s surgery.

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“I wasn’t pitching to get to 130 innings,” Verlander told reporters. including MLB.com. “When we made the contract, [Astros owner] Jim [Crane] they told me they wanted 130 innings for my player option. I was asking for a straight player option and was told they would like 130 innings, and that was it. I thought that was a very fair number, the way I like to pitch.”

Verlander, 39, will now have the option this winter to return to the Astros for $25 million or decline and try free agency. It’s worth noting that Verlander could also decline the option before reaching a new deal with the Astros. Given his track record and his performance this season, it would seem reasonable to believe he could sign another year worth upwards of $25 million.

The Astros, 69-38 on the season, will continue their four-game streak against the Guardians on Friday night. Houston’s 11½-game lead in the American League West is the longest in the league, though it trails the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 12½-game lead in the National League West for the longest in the majors.





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