Verlander, Astros finalize new deal through '21

Ace says of Houston: 'I don't want to be anywhere else'

March 24th, 2019

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The gut-wrenching, last-second decision Justin Verlander made as midnight approached on Aug. 31, 2017, to approve a trade from the Tigers to the Astros was validated months later when Verlander helped the Astros win their first World Series.

The city and the team -- a team that was built to contend for the foreseeable future -- grew on Verlander quickly, and when the Astros approached him in January about a possible contract extension, he was completely on board. The Astros announced Sunday that they have signed Verlander to a two-year contract extension that a source told will pay Verlander $66 million in 2020-21.

“I don’t want to be anywhere else,” Verlander said. “This is a great team that’s going to continue be a great team.”

The announcement was made on a practice field at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches with Verlander’s Astros teammates in attendance, along with his wife, Kate Upton, and their baby daughter, Genevieve.

“There were a lot of stories out there about when my wife and I made the decision to OK the trade to Houston and a lot went into that, but I think looking back, it was a difficult decision, but was no doubt the right decision,” Verlander said. “I was part of a World Series championship team, and since I’ve been here with my new teammates, it’s been, in my opinion, the best organization in baseball. I’m just humbled to be a part of that.”

Verlander, who was set to become a free agent next season, sets the record for the highest annual average value for a pitcher, surpassing the deal that Zack Greinke signed with the D-backs in 2015, and behind only Mike Trout overall -- taking him through his age-38 season.

“It was something that was important to me,” he said. “I thought it was very fair compensation, and also the way it affects future players’ contracts in age-37, 38 seasons just helps push the boundary a little bit, which is something that’s important to me.”

Verlander went 16-9 with a 2.52 ERA last year and led the American League in strikeouts (290) and quality starts (26), finishing second in the AL Cy Young Award race to the Rays' Blake Snell. He brings stability to an Astros rotation that entered the spring with four starters set to hit free agency at the end of 2019 and leadership to a team that has an impressive group of young pitchers on the come up.

“He’s just a special talent that you don’t run across in baseball very often,” Astros owner Jim Crane said.

The deal caps a week that saw the Astros handed out $183.5 million in extensions to three players -- reliever Ryan Pressly (two years, $17.5 million, All-Star third baseman Alex Bregman (five years, $100 million) and Verlander. The Verlander deal is the highest AAV in Astros history.

“We are compensating Justin at the level he deserves -- the highest annual value of all-time for pitchers -- and for a player, that in my opinion, is going to be a shoo-in to get into the Hall of Fame. That’s well-deserved,” Astros director of baseball operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “It’s a special circumstance for a special player.”

Verlander will make his 11th career Opening Day start Thursday, when the Astros open the season against the Rays at Tropicana Field.