If the Astros don’t start addressing player’s contract extensions, fifteen will become free agents within the next two years, nine after this season.
The Astros‘ front office and GM Jeff Luhnow need to start talking to some of their key players about contract extensions, especially those on the pitching staff. Four of the five projected starters this season stand to be free agents next year if their contracts aren’t extended.
Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Collin McHugh, and newly acquired Wade Miley are all in their final year of their contracts. If none of these starters get extended, the Astros starting rotation could look drastically different than what we see now. Houston does have a deep pool of top pitching prospects, but do they really want to rely on a pitching staff that inexperienced?
Verlander has expressed his interest in the possibility of an extension and staying right here in Houston and Luhnow seemed receptive to the idea. His birthday is tomorrow and he will turn 37 before the 2020 season. He recently stated that he would like to pitch until he’s 45, but is that realistic enough for an extension and at the high price he’ll demand?
"“I’m taking the proper steps to prepare myself to pitch … hopefully until 45,” he said Thursday at the Astros’ spring training facility."
Cole might be the more sensible and cheaper option of the two, assuming it’s unrealistic to afford an extension for both. At seven years younger than Verlander, a long term contract wouldn’t be as risky. He did recently win his arbitration case with the Astros, but at $13.5 million he’s still making half of what Verlander is earning. Both pitchers had very similar numbers last season and both were in the top five voting for the Cy Young Award.
McHugh is also a viable choice to sign to an extension, especially when you consider his experience as both a starter and a reliever. He’s currently earning $5.8 million and would be less expensive than Verlander or Cole, leaving salary space to sign a top free agent that will be available next season.
Brad Peacock also has starting experience, but he’ll become a free agent in 2021, making him another pitcher to consider extending. Plus Peacock, like McHugh, has experience in the starting rotation and out of the bullpen. He’s making even less at $3.1 million this season.
The longer Luhnow waits to have discussions with these pitchers, the more unlikely an extension will be on the table. Many times once the season begins, players are less apt to have contract talks. Time is running out, but the need to keep one or two of these talented and experienced pitchers on the roster is very real.