M.L.B. Free-Agency Tracker: Justin Verlander Stays in Houston

In a complicated off-season for Major League Baseball, a solid free-agent class has around a month to sign contracts ahead of the expected expiration of the league’s collective bargaining agreement on Dec. 1. If a lockout is imposed on Dec. 2, all transactions would be put on hold until it is resolved.

For now, we are tracking the larger free-agent signings, contract extensions and trades as they become official.

Terms: One Year, $25 million (with a $25 million player option for 2023)

Announced: Nov. 17, by his brother

It has been a quiet few years for Justin Verlander, a right-handed ace, as he has dealt with surgical procedures on his groin and pitching elbow that have limited him to only one appearance since 2019. But in his last full season he threw the third no-hitter of his career and won the American League’s Cy Young Award. And with a résumé that screams “Cooperstown,” there was plenty of reason for teams to be clamoring for his services.

What Houston can expect of Verlander, who turns 39 in February, is a little unclear after such a long layoff. But with multiple teams watching his workouts and a buzz developing that he had his old stuff, it was not surprising for him to get paid like an ace — and he got a pretty large vote of confidence in a player option that effectively guarantees him $50 million over two years.

It is unlikely that Verlander has enough time left in his career to get the 74 victories he needs to reach 300, but helping Houston through another deep playoff run would add a feather to his cap in a career that already includes a Rookie of the Year Award, a Most Valuable Player Award, a pitching triple crown, two Cy Young Awards and seven other top-10 finishes in Cy Young voting. He also won a World Series ring in the Astros’ tainted 2017 season after going to Houston in a trade from Detroit.

Announced: Nov. 18

Terms: Seven years and $131 million. He was eligible for salary arbitration and would not have reached free agency until 2023.

Acquired at the trading deadline from Minnesota, Berríos apparently delivered on expectations as Toronto locked him in for the next seven years. A two-time All-Star, Berríos is a 27-year-old right-hander who has been a reliable and durable starter since 2017. In 12 starts for the Blue Jays, he had a 3.58 E.R.A. and he struck out 78 batters in 70 and a third innings, which makes his mediocre record of 5-4 a bit misleading.

While few would quibble that Berríos is a good starter, the massive financial commitment will look a bit unusual if the team does not find a way to retain Robbie Ray, a free-agent left-hander who does not have Berríos’s track record but just won the A.L. Cy Young Award.

Terms: One year, $18.4 million

Announced: Nov. 17

Fourteen players were offered the $18.4 million qualifying offer by their teams — which attaches draft-pick compensation if the player signs with another team — and only Belt accepted it. A leader on and off the field, Belt, 33, could still be negotiating a long-term deal, but he will assuredly be with the Giants in 2022, which very likely comes as a relief for the team’s fans, many of whom are probably wondering what the playoffs would have looked like if Belt had not been sidelined by a fractured thumb.

Belt has had some injury issues over the years, but there is no denying he can hit. Over the past two seasons, his on-base plus slugging percentage is .988, which is fourth in the majors among batters with at least 500 plate appearances. The only players ahead of him make for impressive company: Juan Soto of the Nationals (1.042), Bryce Harper of the Phillies (1.021) and Ronald Acuña Jr. of the Braves (.989). That Belt has put up numbers like that in a park that favors pitchers is doubly impressive.

San Francisco has plenty of players who had what might be considered career seasons last year, meaning the 107-win team could be in for some regression to the mean. But Belt is a safe bet to produce — provided he can keep himself on the field.

Terms: Five years, $77 million

Announced: Nov. 16

Detroit is banking on Rodriguez, 28, as a front-end starter, which he was at times for the Boston Red Sox. In 2019, he was Boston’s best starter by a fairly wide margin and finished sixth in the American League Cy Young Award voting (he had more wins above replacement than three of the pitchers who finished ahead of him). He missed the entire 2020 season after he developed myocarditis after having tested positive for the coronavirus, but he recovered to be Boston’s No. 2 starter in 2021. While his record and E.R.A. declined from 2019, he showed improvement in strikeouts per nine innings and walks per nine innings.

In Detroit, Rodriguez should slot in as a reliable left-handed complement to the promising Casey Mize at the top of the Tigers’ rotation, and he should benefit a great deal from the shift from hitter-friendly Fenway Park to pitcher-friendly Comerica Park. To lure him, however, was pricey: Rodriguez is not only guaranteed $77 million, but the Tigers will forfeit their third-round draft pick to Boston as compensation since the Red Sox extended a qualifying offer to Rodriguez.

Terms: One year, $21 million

Announced: Nov. 16

Syndergaard, 29, will give the Angels the pitcher with the highest upside in this year’s free-agent class, but one who also comes with a great deal of risk. While the commitment is for only one year, Los Angeles, which is desperately in need of starting pitching, paid a steep price, guaranteeing the hard-throwing Syndergaard $21 million and sacrificing a compensatory draft pick to the Mets, who had extended a qualifying offer that would have paid Syndergaard $18.4 million.

At his best, Syndergaard could be the ace the Angels have lacked. He has a 3.32 E.R.A. over six seasons and has averaged 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings. As a rookie in 2015, he was pitching in the World Series. In 2016, he was an All-Star. But things have been far rockier since. Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 because of a torn right latissimus muscle. And after uneven efforts in 2018 and 2019, he missed all of 2020 after having Tommy John surgery. Once he did return, he made only two token appearances in the final week of the 2021 season because of inflammation in his pitching elbow.

Terms: One year, $8.5 million

Announced: Nov. 10

After a fairly disastrous 2021 season, Heaney, who split the year between the Angels and the Yankees, will head back to Southern California in hopes of proving that his 5.83 E.R.A. (7.32 in 12 appearances for the Yankees) was misleading.

“I know that I’m much better than my numbers say I was last year,” Heaney said in a video conference.

The Dodgers have some reason to believe Heaney when he says that. A 30-year-old left-hander, he struck out 150 batters in 129⅔ innings in 2021 and had a solid strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.66. Many of his underlying indicators show a pitcher who could be league-average or better, which would make Heaney a bargain at $8.5 million. He said in his introductory news conference that he had already gone over some potential tweaks with Manager Dave Roberts and Mark Prior, the Dodgers’ pitching coach, in hopes of unlocking his potential.

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