The Houston Astros are keeping Lance McCullers Jr. around for the long haul.
Fans have been clamoring for the Houston Astros to keep impending free agent Lance McCullers Jr. around for the long haul, and it appears they have done just that. FOX 26’s Mark Berman broke the news on Wednesday that the team and its star pitcher have agreed on a five-year contract extension which would be worth $85 million per ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
This is obviously big news as McCullers would have been in line for a handsome payday in free agency if he put together a healthy season in 2021. Instead, the Astros are able to retain his services for five more seasons at a $17 million average annual salary, which seems more than reasonable. It also doesn’t affect their luxury tax burden this year, as it doesn’t kick in until 2022.
MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported that there are no option years included in the deal and that McCullers does get a limited no-trade clause. So the Astros will have him under contract through 2026, which will be his age-32 season. They get his prime years — and only his prime years — at what certainly seems like a team-friendly salary.
What may have allowed that to happen is McCullers’ injury history, which includes a Tommy John surgery that cost him the 2019 season. He’s never made more than 22 starts in a single season, but he’s been more than effective when healthy. There’s also uncertainty as to how next offseason will go with the CBA expiring, so perhaps McCullers wanted the peace of mind of having a contract in place.
With Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke both set to hit free agency after this season, the McCullers extension gives the Astros a solid foundation moving forward. They’ll have McCullers, Jake Odorizzi, Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy and Cristian Javier lined up for the rotation in 2022, so we may very well be seeing the last of Verlander and Greinke in Houston.
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This further demonstrates the team’s commitment to winning and is notable for many reasons. It is the largest contract the Astros have given to a pitcher in the Jim Crane era, surpassing the $66 million extension given to Verlander to cover 2020 and 2021. It’s also the longest deal the franchise has given to a pitcher since the three-year deal signed by Scott Feldman.
With this out of the way, hopefully the Astros can turn their full attention toward hammering out a deal with shortstop Carlos Correa, who is also set to reach free agency this coming winter and has been vocal about his desire to remain in Houston. He has set a deadline for the end of Spring Training, so perhaps Click can get something done there too.
But for now, the Astros have managed to lock up one of their key players on a contract that looks more than reasonable. McCullers will spend his best years in Houston, and kudos to Crane and Click for making it happen.