Justin Verlander declines $25M Astros option, becomes free agent

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Justin Verlander declined a $25 million option with the Houston Astros to become a free agent, five days after helping the team with its second World Series title.

The 39-year-old right-hander likely headed to his third Cy Young Award got his first World Series win in nine starts in Game 5 against Philadelphia. The day before that happened, he said it was too early to think about his future.

“Really and truly it’s been a hell of a ride no matter what happens, whether I stay or don’t,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed my time with this group of guys and the city and getting to know the city.”

Verlander was among four players who became free agents Thursday, raising the total to 165.

Verlander played for Detroit from 2005 until he was traded to the Astros in August 2017. He agreed to a $66 million contract covering 2020 and 2021, then hurt his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery.

After pitching one game over the previous two seasons, Verlander became a free agent and re-signed with Houston for a $25 million, one-year deal that included the option. He went 18-4 with a major league-best 1.75 ERA in 28 starts, then was 2-0 with a 5.85 ERA in four postseason outings. He is 244-133 with a 3.24 ERA and 3,198 strikeouts in 17 seasons.

“I really did enjoy kind of just talking with some teams and just kind of like hearing their philosophies and getting to talk about my philosophies with pitching and just talk baseball,” he said. “I didn’t get the traditional come into the city and get all the pizzazz because it was a short timeframe.”

Several other players had option decisions due Thursday. Among the other moves, the Los Angeles Dodgers declined third baseman Justin Turner‘s $16 million option in favor of a $16 million buyout. San Francisco declined a $13 million option on third baseman Evan Longoria, triggering a $5 million buyout.

The New York Mets turned down an $8 million option on right-hander Mychal Givens in favor of a $1.5 million buyout, Baltimore said no to an $11 million option on right-hander Jordan Lyles and will pay a $1 million buyout, and Boston said it and the player had declined a $12 million mutual option on outfielder Tommy Pham, who gets a $1.5 million buyout.

Colin Poche, Rays go to arbitration just $125,000 apart

Colin Poche torn UCL
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reliever Colin Poche went to salary arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the sides just $125,000 apart.

The gap between the $1.3 million the pitcher asked for and the $1,175,000 the team offered was the smallest among the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration figures last month. The case was heard by John Woods, Jeanne Vonhof and Walt De Treux, who will hold their decision until later this month.

A 29-year-old left-hander, Poche had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2020, and returned to the major leagues last April 22 after six appearances at Triple-A Durham. Poche was 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and seven saves in 65 relief appearances for the Rays. He struck out 64 and walked 22 in 58 2/3 innings.

Poche had a $707,800 salary last year.

Tampa Bay went to arbitration on Monday with reliever Ryan Thompson, whose decision also is being held until later this month. He asked for $1.2 million and the Rays argued for $1 million.

Rays right-hander Jason Adam and outfielder Harold Ramirez remain scheduled for hearings.

Players and teams have split four decisions thus far. All-Star pitcher Max Fried ($13.5 million) lost to Atlanta and reliever Diego Castillo ($2.95 million) was defeated by Seattle, while pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Marlins.

A decision also is pending for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Eighteen additional players are eligible for arbitration and hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17. Among the eligible players is Seattle utilityman Dylan Moore, who has a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.