Astros’ Justin Verlander clears 130-inning threshold, picks up conditional $25 million player option

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Houston Astros right-hander Justin Verlander had a great start against the Cleveland Cavaliers on an August night. He threw six shutout innings, surrendering two hits and issuing one walk with five strikeouts. The outing raised his season marks to a 1.73 ERA (221 ERA+) and 5.52 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 130 innings.

That last number is the most important. By surpassing the 130-inning mark, Verlander triggered a conditional $25 million player option in his contract tied to his workload — an incentive the Astros requested when they last winter. I signed it after a year-long recovery from Tommy John surgery.

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“I wasn’t pitching to get to 130 innings,” Verlander told reporters. including “When we were making the deal, [Astros owner] Gym [Crane] Told me they wanted 130 innings for my player option. I was asking for the straight player option and he said he wanted to play 130 innings, and that was it. I thought that was a very reasonable number for the way I wanted to pitch.”

Verlander, 39, will now have the choice to return to the Astros for $25 million this winter or decline free agency and test. It’s worth noting that Verlander could also decline that option before reaching a new contract with the Astros. Given his track record and his performance this season, it seems reasonable to believe he could sign another one-year deal worth more than $25 million.

The Astros, 69-38 on the season, continue their four-game series against the Guardians on Friday night. Houston’s 11 ½-game lead in the American League West is the largest in the league, although it trails the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 12 ½-game lead in the National League West for the largest lead in the majors.