McCullers, Astros finalize 5-year extension

March 26th, 2021

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- made it clear early in camp that he wanted to pitch the rest of his career in Houston, for the team that drafted him out of high school and in the city for a fanbase for which he’s grown to love. The only question was whether the Astros felt the same.

Less than a month later -- and after a few sleepless nights -- McCullers was able to exhale and celebrate after the right-hander signed a five-year contract extension on Friday that will keep him in an Astros uniform through the 2026 season. The deal, which begins in 2022, is worth $85 million, a source told's Mark Feinsand, making it the richest deal the club has given a pitcher. The Astros have not confirmed the terms of the deal.

“I’m proud, I’m grateful, I’m overwhelmed with joy and thankfulness,” McCullers said on Friday. “I've loved being here so much. Houston is my home and I don’t ever want to leave.”

McCullers, 27, has battled injuries throughout his career, including missing the entire 2019 season following Tommy John surgery, but he came back last year and proved he was healthy. McCullers went 3-3 with a 3.93 ERA in 11 starts, including a 2.18 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in his final eight starts. That, combined with his desire to remain in Houston, helped bring the deal to fruition.

“The history of guys that have gone through some of the injuries he’s gone through shows that when they get those things behind them, they tend to stay behind them,” Astros general manager James Click said. “Lance has done a tremendous job of changing his diet, changing his workout and working with our medical and training staff to make sure his body is 100 percent ready to take on the innings workload we’re going to need.”

McCullers, selected by the Astros with the No. 41 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, has never pitched more than 128 1/3 innings in his big league career. That came in 2018, when he injured his elbow in August and then pitched through a torn ulnar collateral ligament in the postseason as a reliever.

“I’ve had to overcome a lot and I’ve worked extremely hard,” he said. “I feel like they recognize that and there’s not a greater honor than to be able to be one of the leaders of a team for years to come. Especially this team.”

In his career, McCullers has appeared in 94 regular-season games (91 starts) and is 32-25 with a 3.70 ERA. He made the American League All-Star team in 2017 and cemented himself in Astros lore when he threw 24 consecutive curveballs while throwing four scoreless innings in relief against the Yankees in Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS to clinch the pennant.

“This is something that’s a dream for us,” McCullers said. “For us, being able to be where we want to be in such an amazing city in Houston and such a great organization with an awesome fanbase, that means a lot to us. We’re very excited.”

McCullers will anchor the Astros’ rotation for years to come, with Jose Urquidy, Cristian Javier and Framber Valdez emerging as solid rotation pieces. Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander are in the final years of their contracts, but Verlander is out for the season following Tommy John surgery. The club signed Jake Odorizzi to a two-year deal earlier this month.

McCullers is one of six remaining players from the team’s 2017 World Series club -- the starting infield of Yuli Gurriel, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and pitcher Francis Martes. The Astros signed Altuve to a five-year, $151-million extension prior to the ‘18 season and Bregman to a five-year, $100-million extension prior to ‘19 under former general manager Jeff Luhnow.

Correa is facing free agency at the end of this season and said on Thursday that he turned down a six-year, $120-million offer from the Astros earlier this month. Click declined to discuss Correa on Friday, but McCullers is no doubt hoping the club can extend Correa before his self-imposed Opening Day deadline.

“That’s my brother,” McCullers said. “Nothing’s going to make me happier than him being happy. Whatever that is, the bond we share goes far beyond the game of baseball. Whatever is best for Carlos, that’s the boat I’m in.”