Houston Astros Ace Justin Verlander Headlines Potential Free Agents In World Series

The two teams participating in the World Series have some decisions to make not long after the Fall Classic ends.

Both the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies have nine players potentially eligible to file for free agency five days after the Series ends. Most of the top players among those 18, though, are tied into some sort of option in their contracts for 2023.

Astros ace pitcher Justin Verlander holds a player option for $25 million in 2023. Houston has a $13-million club option on left-handed reliever Will Smith. Designated hitter/first baseman/outfielder Trey Mancini has a $10-million mutual option.

Among the Astros’ unrestricted free agents are outfielder Michael Brantley, catchers Jason Castro and Christian Vazquez, infielder/outfielder Aledmys Diaz, first baseman Yuli Gurriel and right-handed reliever Rafael Montero.

The Phillies hold club options on second baseman Jean Segura for $17 million and right-handed starter Aaron Nola for $16 million. There is a $15-million mutual option in righty Zach Eflin’s contract.

The Phillies also have six unrestricted free agents in right-handed starters Kyle Gibson and Noah Syndergaard, left-handed reliever Brad Hand and righty relievers Chris Devenski, Corey Knebel and David Robertson.

The biggest decision will be made by Verlander and whether he will decline the option and look for a bigger contract. Despite being 39 years old and limited to one start combined in the 2020 and 2021 seasons, Verlander is the favorite to win the American League Cy Young Award following a spectacular season.

Verlander led the AL in wins as he compiled an 18-4 record with a league-best 1.75 ERA in 28 starts. His 0.82 WHIP and 6.0 hits per nine innings also topped the AL while he struck out 185 in 175 innings.

However, Verlander has struggled in two of his three postseason starts. He was tagged for six runs in four innings by the Seattle Mariners in Game 1 of an AL Division Series and five runs in five innings by the Phillies in the first game of the World Series, though he did not take the loss in either game.

Verlander gave up as many as five runs just twice in the regular season.

The Astros are unlikely to exercise Smith’s option as he was left off the roster in the Division Series and Championship Series rounds. It also seems doubtful the Astros will bring Mancini back after he hit just .176/.258/.364 with eight home runs in 51 regular season games following his acquisition from the Baltimore Orioles in a trade.

Montero would seemingly be the Astros’ top priority among their unrestricted free agents. He pitched in 71 games during the regular season and had a 2.37 ERA and 14 saves.

The Astros have a tough decision on Gurriel, who has been a mainstay throughout their run of four World Series appearances in the last six years. However, he is 38 and coming off a regular season in which he had a .242/.288/.360 slash line with eight home runs in 146 games.

Vazquez and Diaz could be reupped.

Starting catcher Martin Maldonado is 36 and Vazquez could provide a timeshare option behind the plate. Diaz has some pop in his bat and can play all four infield positions as well as the corner outfield spots.

Brantley and Castro are aging and have missed a good chunk of the season with injuries. It seems likely that the Astros would bring them back only on contracts with little guaranteed money.

On the Phillies’ side, picking up Nola’s option seems a certainty. He had another fine season in 2022, despite a lackluster 11-13 record. Nola’s ERA was 3.25 to go with a 0.98 WHIP.

At 29, Nola should show little or no sign of a drop off in 2023.

Segura is a tougher call. Despite being limited to 98 games by injury, he had a solid season with a .277/.336/.387 slash line, 10 home runs and 13 stolen bases.

However, the Phillies might save some money to bolster their pitching staff by moving Bryson Stott from shortstop to second base. The Phillies love utility infielder Edmundo Sosa’s defense and he could become the full-time shortstop in 2023.

The Phillies are unlikely to exercise their half of Eflin’s option as he has been slowed by injuries that last two seasons.

Robertson could be a pitcher the Phillies have interest in re-signing. However, they are likely to move on from Gibson, Syndergaard, Hand, Devenski and Knebel.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnperrotto/2022/11/01/houston-astros-justin-verlander-headlines-potential-free-agents-in-world-series/