One of the game’s top pitchers since his debut with the Detroit Tigers back in 2005, Justin Verlander heads to free agency this offseason and similar to Syndergaard, sits in a pretty peculiar situation.
For starters, Verlander has been absolutely dominant for his career, sporting a 3.33 ERA through 454 starts and 2988.0 innings with 3013 strikeouts, a 9.1 K/9, and a 1.134 WHIP. He also has a World Series Championship to his name (depending on who you ask) while also boasting a Rookie of the Year award, two Cy Young awards, eight all-star appearances, three no-hitters, and the pitcher’s version of the Triple Crown back in 2011.
He has only appeared in one game over the past two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery during the 2020 season and did not pitch at all this past season.
Coming off a two-year, $66 million dollar he signed with the Houston Astros, Verlander heads to free agency and will be eligible for a qualifying offer, something the Astros organization appears ready to extend to the veteran right-hander.
Many would think that Verlander would be wise to accept the offer given the recent injury but if he does end up a free agent for the first time in his career, regardless of declining the offer or not being offered one, he will have his fair share of suitors. He has been moved by the notion of becoming a free agent before and given how late in his career he currently sits, now is a better time than ever to explore that opportunity.
Considering he did undergo major surgery and will be turning 39 early next year, there is some risk that the right-hander will not be the same pitcher fans are used to seeing and will command some significant salary even in a short-term deal scenario. The Jays should have some payroll flexibility to go after a Verlander type pitcher without impacting the potential future extensions of the young core, as long as the deal doesn’t go past two years, the risk is more associated with whether Verlander can return to being the dominant pitcher he once was or whether he will struggle after being away for almost two full seasons.
If he does end up a free agent this offseason, the Blue Jays could risk a one or two-year deal on the right-hander, especially if Ray and Matz don’t return next season, as a veteran arm with his history could be dominant alongside Manoah, Ryu, and Berrios both on and off the mound.