Astros manager A.J. Hinch said veteran Justin Verlander will start on Opening Day, the Houston Chronicle reports. The Astros begin the regular season on March 29 on the road against the Rangers. Presumably, Verlander will pitch opposite Cole Hamels in a battle among state rivals.
Verlander ends Dallas Keuchel‘s streak of three consecutive Opening Day starts for the Astros. This will be Verlander’s 10th career Opening Day start. The right-hander opened the season seven consecutive seasons from 2008-14 for the Tigers and twice more in 2016-17.
The Astros acquired Verlander at the end of August last season in preparation for the playoffs. The move paid huge dividends as Verlander posted a 1.06 ERA across five starts with the Astros to end the regular season. In the playoffs, Verlander held the opposition to nine runs across 36 2/3 innings. That included two solid starts against the Dodgers in Games 2 and 6 of the World Series, helping the Astros win their first ever championship.
Verlander, 35, is under contract for two more seasons, earning $28 million both years. He also has a vesting option for 2020 worth $22 million.
The Brewers reportedly signed third baseman Mike Moustakas to a one-year, $10 million contract on Sunday. While the deal is not yet official, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports that the Brewers plan to give Moustakas a look at second base during spring training. If all goes well, he will be the primary second baseman and Travis Shaw will stay at third base.
The initial thought was that Moustakas would simply take over at third base for the more versatile Shaw. Moustakas has spent 8,035 of his career defensive innings at third base, 35 innings at first base, and none at second. In fact, he has never played second base as a pro player. Shaw, meanwhile, has spent 268 of his 4,073 1/3 defensive innings in the majors at second base and played there as recently as October.
This is certainly an interesting wrinkle to signing Moustakas, who is a decent third baseman. He was victimized by another slow free agent market, not signing until March last year on a $6.5 million deal with a $15 million mutual option for this season. That option was declined, obviously, and he ended up signing for $5 million cheaper here in February as the Brewers waited him out. Notably, Moustakas did not have qualifying offer compensation attached to him this time around.
Last season, between the Royals and Brewers, the 30-year-old Moustakas hit .251/.315/.459 with 28 home runs and 95 RBI in 635 plate appearances.