I'm sure this won't be met with a ton of sympathy given the world's disdain for the Houston Astros and every individual who wore the uniform from 2017 through the 2019 seasons, but this actually does suck a lot regardless of your feelings towards the organization.
Justin Verlander made one start this season back on July 24, went six innings, gave up a couple homers and punched out seven. We never saw him again. The question surrounding Verlander became, do we see him again this year? With Gerrit Cole signing a record-breaking contract with the Yankees, and Zack Greinke -- who, credit to him is having a good enough year -- being unable to carry Houston to the World Series by himself, the Astros are now in serious trouble. If Houston was going to have their silence the crowd moment in October, that was only going to happen if Verlander returned.
Well, not only is Verlander not returning in 2020; he won't be returning in 2021, either. I hate to say it, but there is a chance that he never returns. Now, that's not how I feel personally. But there is that chance. I think Verlander is far too competitive to let this be it, and far too prideful to ride off into the sunset while strapped to an operating table. It should, however, be noted that this might not be up to his pride or his competitive spirit. He's turning 38 years old in February, which means that best case scenario, if and when he returns to a major league mound, he'll be 39 years old. Again, that's best case scenario.
It's not that it can't be done. It's just that it will be extremely difficult. Not just to return, but to return and be the Verlander that he was the last time he toed the rubber. I think it would be a mistake to doubt the guy and say that it's impossible for him to return in 2022 and still be an above average pitcher. He did, after all, win a Cy Young award as a 36-year-old. But both logic and data would tell you that there is a vast difference between 36 and 39 from a professional athlete performance standpoint. I don't know, though. I just feel like if anybody can do it, it'd be him. He's built different.
For those wondering about the contract, Verlander signed a two-year, $66 million extension with the Astros in March of 2019. At the time, that was the highest average annual value a pitcher had ever received in the history of the game. That also means that Verlander will get that direct deposit hit of $33 million from Houston next year just to rehab and recover, potentially so that he can pitch for an entirely different team. You read that correctly -- Verlander will be a free agent when he's fully recovered and ready to take the mound again in 2022.
That'll be an interesting process. Will the Astros try to bring him back? Might he want to finish his career off where it started in Detroit, who now have a crop of young, talented pitchers? Might he want to finish out his Hall of Fame career with a young, up and coming contender that needs a veteran presence like him to put them over the top like he did with Houston in 2017? We shall see. We've got quite some time before that's even a story.
For now, the Astros are fucked. If the postseason started today, they'd be the six seed playing the three seed Oakland A's, who are 7-3 against Houston this season.