Has Justin Verlander pitched his last game in a Houston Astros' jersey?
Thursday, November 3, 2022 may go down as a momentous day in the history of Justin Verlander's career for two reasons.
First, he attained the final missing piece of his otherwise spotless Hall of Fame resume that evening, picking up his first career World Series win.
Secondly, it may mark the final time Verlander threw a pitch while wearing an Astros jersey.
According to Jon Heyman of the New York Post, Verlander and the Astros are "far apart" in contract talks. Heyman cited Verlander's camp looking for a 3 year, $130 million contract, matching Max Scherzer's MLB record $43.3 million AAV. There is apparent hesitancy on the Astros' side to go three years after Verlander struggled mightily in October.
Let's be real here, Justin Verlander put together one of the greatest pitching stretches in MLB history since joining the Astros. He has gone 61-19 with a 2.26 ERA and 0.83 WHIP in his time in Houston, winning two World Series rings, two Cy Young awards, an ALCS MVP in 2017 and threw his third career no-hitter. He's been dominant as an Astro.
He'll also be on the wrong side of 40 midway through next season, and regardless of how great his regular season return was, he did just undergo Tommy John surgery.
Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan are the only comparable aces to have strung together multiple successful seasons after turning 40. Unlike Verlander, neither of them had the black eye of sustained World Series struggles that Verlander continues to carry. Ryan only threw in one World Series game and was scoreless in his relief outing. Clemens threw in six World Series games and had a 3-0 record with a 2.37 ERA in them.
Even without his Fall Classic struggles, is Verlander worth committing to for three years at his advanced age? Factor in his continued World Series shortcomings (even his win this year was incredibly stressful and featured some good breaks that easily could have gone Philadelphia's way) and the answer feels like a no-brainer.
The Astros window to continue winning World Series championships remains wide open. They have a six-deep rotation even without JV. What sense does it make to commit to a 40-year-old that struggles in the one series a year Houston is most concerned with winning?
Thanks for the memories, Justin. It's been quite a ride. But Willson Contreras and Andrew Benintendi sure will look good in navy and orange....