Astros have No. 1 pick locked up, but race for the bottom is crowded after that

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Houston has the worst record in baseball locked up for the second straight season, so the Astros can start deciding what to do with the No. 1 overall pick in next June’s draft.

Right now the Cubs own the second-worst record, but the race for the No. 2 pick is pretty crowded:

              W      L       GB
Astros       40     91     ----
Cubs         50     80     10.5
Twins        53     78     13.0
Rockies      53     76     14.0
Indians      55     76     15.0

Minnesota picked second this season and the Twins trail the Cubs by just 2.5 games for the right to do that again next year. However, the Indians are coming on pretty strong. In fact, since the All-Star break Houston (7-38) and Cleveland (11-35) are the only two teams with fewer than 15 wins or more than 30 losses.

Unfortunately for the Astros and everyone else listed above next year’s draft, much like this year’s draft, is considered a weak class in terms of elite-level talent and most early projections have Stanford right-hander Mark Appel as the top prospect available. Houston passed on Appel with the No. 1 pick in June and he tumbled all the way to Pittsburgh at No. 8 before turning down $3.8 million and going back to school.

Report: Astros extend Justin Verlander for two years, $66 million

Justin Verlander
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The Astros are in agreement with right-hander Justin Verlander on a two-year, $66 million extension, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com was among those to report on Friday. With no money deferred, the $33 million he’ll receive over the next two years will set a record AAV for major-league pitchers; something MLB Network’s Jon Heyman says matters to Verlander, who “cares how his deals affect markets (and fellow players).”

While it’s far from the five-year, $100 million extension teammate Alex Bregman signed with the club on Friday, the deal will give the Astros a bigger window to consider their long-term plans for the ace before he hits free agency again. Prior to Saturday’s agreement, Verlander’s original contract — the hefty seven-year, $180 million arrangement he reached with the Tigers in 2013 — was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2019 season.

It’s difficult to overestimate the value Verlander has provided to the Astros since they acquired him from the Tigers back in 2017. He was named the 2017 ALCS MVP following seven shutout innings in a must-win Game 6 performance and helped the Astros clinch their first franchise World Series title. In 2018, he earned his seventh career All-Star distinction and received consideration for both AL Cy Young and MVP awards after pitching to a 16-9 record in 34 starts with a 2.52 ERA, 1.6 BB/9, 12.2 SO/9 (the product of a career-high 290 strikeouts), and 6.7 fWAR over 214 innings.

The deal has not been confirmed by the team.