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MLB: What next for Justin Verlander?

After winning another World Series with the Houston Astros and a third Cy Young Award in his career, Justin Verlander turned down the Astros option of a third year of his contract, but where does the 39-year-old go next? 

No to the Astros?

Verlander helped the Astros collect their second World Series title in five years and there was a unanimous vote to win his third Cy Young award by the Baseball Writers' Association of America after winning in 2011 and 2019. 

Verlander will be included in the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown but hasn't yet finished his glittering career. The question is, who will he be with when he does? 

He opted out of the $25 million salary he would have earned for 2023 at the Astros and it is thought he wants a similar deal to that of Max Scherzer who earned $130 million over three years with the New York Mets, a deal signed last offseason.

Don't rule out the Astros retaining their man, but they may be down the queue for his services. At the moment the Houston Astros are +550 to retain their World Series and Verlander's future is a key component. 

Which clubs are interested? 

The New York Mets are one of a few clubs that have inquired about the veteran pitcher. Should Jacob deGrom move elsewhere other than at Queen's, then the Mets would like a ready-made replacement, ideally one that fits straight in alongside Scherzer in the rotation. 

Verlander recently spoke to ESPN about his future: "I'm not a negative person, so I don't want to sit here and say maybe I won't be back because it's been a wonderful ride and I don't know what's going to happen, so I'm not going to sit here now and pretend to know. 

"I'm going to be in a situation where the market will dictate itself. We'll see what happens. Obviously there's a lot of people that are interested. Jim (Crane, Houston Astros owner) understands that. 

"Based on our conversation, he completely understands that there's a lot of people that are potentially interested in my services, including the Astros, and we'll see what happens."

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Verlander ended the 2022 season with the most wins in the AL (18). He led the majors in both ERA (1.75) and WHIP (0.83) in 2022 and was the lead guy for the Astros in their charge for the World Series. 

The Los Angeles Dodgers appear to be the latest team interested in Verlander's services. Clayton Kershaw has agreed to sign a new deal for the 2023 season, but the finer details have yet to be finalised. However, the Dodgers could do with some reinforcements in their rotation. 

As part of the talk about adding to their roster with pitching, the Dodgers have met with Verlander and his people about a deal for next season. The additional caveat to the Dodger's speaking to him is that Verlander does have a house in Los Angeles, so they could be the front-runners to a deal. 

The only obstacle to a deal with the Dodgers, +500 to win the World Series in 2023, could be the length of contract. With the Dodgers having a plethora of pitching prospects on their doorstep, how long a deal would they want to give to Verlander? 

The Dodgers are perennial World Series contenders and usually sign free agents to short-term deals to help with their pitching. If Verlander wants a Max Scherzer-style deal, then LA could be out of the reckoning. 

An amazing turnaround

Verlander's third Cy Young came in the most unusual of ways, as he's towards the end of his career and also off major elbow surgery. Verlander missed the entire 2021 season and was worried that he wouldn't get through the year. He felt pain in May but played through it and eventually it disappeared.

"I just felt like myself. And the moment that I felt normal and like myself, pain-free, able to recover like I always have, I think my mindset just completely shifted to: 'OK, I'm the pitcher I've always been'. I didn't anticipate the season ending with the Cy Young. 

"I don't try to put those expectations on myself. But I knew that I had the opportunity to go out and have a wonderful season."

Quite remarkable from the 39-year-old to produce a quality season. At the moment, we have heard that the Mets and Dodgers are interested. The Astros fell below the threshold of getting Verlander's services again, however, don't rule out a reversal in that scenario. 

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