Astros, Justin Verlander agree to contract extension

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CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 08: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros celebrates defeating the Cleveland Indians 11-3 in Game Three of the American League Division Series to advance to the American League Championship Series at Progressive Field on October 8, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 08: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros celebrates defeating the Cleveland Indians 11-3 in Game Three of the American League Division Series to advance to the American League Championship Series at Progressive Field on October 8, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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The Astros keep one of the best pitchers in baseball around through the 2021 season.

Well, it looks like the partnership between the Astros and Justin Verlander will continue into the next decade. The club and the veteran pitcher agreed to a two-year, $66 million contract extension that runs through the 2021 season.

Counting 2019, the Astros will have Verlander on staff for the next three seasons. For a club that was facing the possibility of losing both Verlander and Gerrit Cole next offseason in free agency, a contract extension with the former is a coup. And don’t forget that fellow starters Collin McHugh and Wade Miley are also scheduled to enter free agency next offseason along with a few relievers. The Astros pitching staff could look mightily different this time next year.

The contract extension itself seems like a fair one for both sides. Verlander is already 36-years old, so a long-term contract of four-plus years with a high average annual salary never seem like a high probability. The $33 million per season starting in 2020 will automatically catapult him among the highest average annual salaries the game. Only Stephen Strasburg ($38.33M), Max Scherzer ($37.4M), and Zack Greinke ($34.5M) have a higher annual salary in 2019 based on Spotrac data. However, as noted by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Verlander now has the highest average annual value salary based on present-day dollars.

The high annual salary is further justified by his results since joining the Astros (2.32 ERA, 333 strikeouts in 248 innings). For a club handing out extensions to Alex Bregman and Ryan Pressly in the midst of a title contention window, the pressure was definitely on to retain one of the best starting pitchers in baseball.

For the Astros, there is risk anytime you talk about pitchers. Hey, even Nolan Ryan’s arm eventually gave out in his forties. Verlander is basically under contract with the Astros for three-years, $80 million. While his average annual value occupies a decent percentage of their overall player payroll, a three-year commitment isn’t a particularly high risk one.

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With Pressly, Bregman, and now Verlander under new contract extensions for the foreseeable future, the Astros remain in prime position to contend beyond 2019. While Cole is the next big one to address, Verlander’s deal does provide continuity for a club with numerous young pitchers progressing through the minors.

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