This is a big one and it also isn't the easiest one to parse as a problem contract. When Houston managed to re-acquire Justin Verlander at the trade deadline, it was a surprisingly aggressive move from Dana Brown who openly decried the inflated prices on the trade market (and rightly so). However, with the injuries to the Astros' rotation and where they were in the standings, it was nice to see Brown act with some urgency to give the team a real boost.
Moreover, Verlander gave the Astros exactly what they needed. He posted a 3.31 ERA in 11 starts with the Astros after the trade deadline which is nothing to sneeze at. Verlander was also good in the postseason with a 2.95 ERA in his three starts. Again, no issues there.
The problem is that Verlander is clearly not the same pitcher he once was and is going to be 41 years old next season. His stuff has already declined significantly and, most importantly, he is making over $43 million next season and his $35 million option for 2025 has already vested. The Mets sending over a decent chunk of money in the trade that brought him back helps a good bit, but that is still a lot of money tied up in a guy in the twilight of his career.
Does Verlander have another good season or two in him? Maybe, maybe not. However, there is some real opportunity cost in having so much tied up in one aging guy and those resources may have been better spent on someone else or even multiple guys. Hindsight is 20/20, but this one could be rough over the next couple of years.