MLB Rumors

Crane: Justin Verlander Seeking Deal Similar To Max Scherzer’s

Crane: Justin Verlander Seeking Deal Similar To Max Scherzer's

Justin Verlander is a free agent without much precedent. A favorite to claim his third career Cy Young award this evening, he’s back on the open market after bypassing a $25MM player option with the Astros.

Verlander’s a fascinating case for teams. He turns 40 years old in February, which’ll certainly cap the length of his next deal. Yet he’s still among the top handful of pitchers in the sport, which sets him up for one of the largest per-year salaries in MLB history. Astros owner Jim Crane — who has taken a very hands-on role in the Houston front office and played a key role in bringing Verlander back last winter — told Brian McTaggart of MLB.com that Verlander has looked to last winter’s biggest free agent pitching contract as precedent. His former teammate Max Scherzer inked a three-year, $130MM guarantee with the Mets — a deal that also allowed him to opt out after the 2023 season.

I know him well, so we’ve been pretty candid,” Crane told McTaggart. “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.

The Scherzer deal indeed seems the closest comparison to Verlander, although their situations aren’t perfectly analogous. While both are all-time great pitchers still pitching near the top of their games deeper into their careers, a three-year bet on Scherzer was probably easier for a team to stomach than that same term for Verlander. Scherzer signed in advance of his age-37 season, while the latter will be three years older at the start of his next contract. Verlander’s two years removed from a Tommy John procedure that cost him almost all of the 2020-21 campaigns, but he’s bounced back to pitch at pre-surgery levels this year. Scherzer had avoided any injury of that magnitude in the past decade, topping 170 innings in every full season since 2008 before this year.

While that seems to tip things in Scherzer’s favor, their pure performance track records are mostly without complaint. Verlander had a 1.75 ERA across 175 innings this past season; Scherzer posted a 2.46 mark in 2021. The latter missed more bats, striking out 34.1% of opponents against Verlander’s 27.8% mark. Fanning just under 28% of opponents is still excellent for a starting pitcher, though, and Verlander maintained top-tier control while sitting in the mid-90s with his fastball.

To no one’s…

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