Houston Astros: Age and the Justin Verlander extension talks

In an effort to keep the Houston Astros a powerhouse team for the next few seasons, the front office has been busy extending some of its top players.

The Houston Astros signed Alex Bregman to a five-year $100 million deal and now the front office is rumored to be pursuing an extension for ace Justin Verlander.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported on the possible extension:

The rumored extension is for two years and $66 million. This would get him close to the AAV that Zach Greinke received with the D-backs. Grienke will receive $34.5 million in 2019 and $35 million in both 2020 and 2021. He’s signed with the D-backs through 2021 when he will be 37 years old.

On the other hand, Verlander just celebrated his 36th birthday in February. His contract that ends in 2019 dates back to 2013 when the Detroit Tigers locked him in for seven years and $180 million. His AAV was $25 million.

At the time of the signing, only a few players had longer contracts with more money. One of those was his teammate Miguel Cabrera, whose contract was for 10 years and $296 million. Another was Prince Fielder who had a nine-year contract worth $214 with the Tigers. In 2019, the Tigers will still be paying $8 million of Verlander’s contract. And, the team is still paying Fielder $6 million in 2019 and 2020.

Despite Verlander being the oldest player on the Houston Astros active roster, he shows no signs of losing his edge. As he enters his 15th season in the MLB, he is not the oldest starting pitcher who will get a start in 2019. But, he is one of the best.

Verlander is entering 2019 with a career ERA of 3.39 and a WHIP 1.162. In 2018, he finished second in the Cy Young vote, despite having the league-high SO/W numbers, most strikeouts in the AL, and the lowest WHIP in the AL.

Other pitchers over 36 include Rich Hill, who will be 39 in his 2019 season with the Dodgers, and the Yankees CC Sabathia, who will turn 39 in July. Adam Wainwright will be 38 in August and will make $2 million with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2019.

J.A. Happ signed for two years with the Yankees for $34 million, and he will be 37 in October. The Yankees re-signed him after having one of his best seasons in ages – pitching to a 2.69 ERA with the Bronx Bombers.

Jason Vargas is another comp for Verlander as Vargas is only a few weeks older than Verlander. The Mets signed Vargas to a two-year deal with a 2020 option. He made $6 million in 2018 and will make $8 million in 2019.

The oldest active and signed pitchers in the MLB – Hill and Sabathia – will start the season on the IL. Wainwright has looked good in Spring Training, pitching 14.1 innings with a WHIP of 0.91. On the other hand, Happ has a startling 7.94 ERA in 11.1 innings this Spring Training. And, Vargas is also active this Spring Training with a 4.50 ERA in 18 innings.

This Spring Training, Verlander has been working on his change-up and has pitched 13.1 innings to an ERA of 3.38 and a WHIP of 1.20. That change-up will give him one more nasty put-away pitch, making his repertoire even more dangerous than it already is.

While some of these pitchers have aged well, Verlander seems to be defying their experiences. If Verlander can maintain his physical health, he could be pitching for much longer than two more years with the Houston Astros. He’s already thrown over 2700, the second most for an active pitcher (Sabathia leads that stat). Hopefully, he can throw many more.