Verlander declines $25M Astros option, becomes free agent

NEW YORK (AP) — Justin Verlander declined a $25 million option with the Houston Astros to become a free agent on Thursday, five days after helping the team with its second World Series title.

The 39-year-old right-hander likely headed to his third Cy Young Award got his first World Series win in nine starts in Game 5 against Philadelphia. The day before that happened, he said it was too early to think about his future.

“Really and truly it’s been a hell of a ride no matter what happens, whether I stay or don’t,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed my time with this group of guys and the city and getting to know the city.”

Verlander was among four players who became free agents Thursday, raising the total to 165.

Verlander played for Detroit from 2005 until he was traded to the Astros in August 2017. He agreed to a $66 million contract covering 2020 and 2021, then hurt his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery.

After pitching one game over the previous two seasons, Verlander became a free agent and re-signed with Houston for a $25 million, one-year deal that included the option. He went 18-4 with a major league-best 1.75 ERA in 28 starts, then was 2-0 with a 5.85 ERA in four postseason outings. He is 244-133 with a 3.24 ERA and 3,198 strikeouts in 17 seasons.

“I really did enjoy kind of just talking with some teams and just kind of like hearing their philosophies and getting to talk about my philosophies with pitching and just talk baseball,” he said. “I didn’t get the traditional come into the city and get all the pizzazz because it was a short timeframe.”

Several other players had option decisions due Thursday. Among the other moves, the Los Angeles Dodgers declined third baseman Justin Turner’s $16 million option in favor of a $16 million buyout. San Francisco declined a $13 million option on third baseman Evan Longoria, triggering a $5 million buyout.

The New York Mets turned down an $8 million option on right-hander Mychal Givens in favor of a $1.5 million buyout, Baltimore said no to an $11 million option on right-hander Jordan Lyles and will pay a $1 million buyout, and Boston said it and the player had declined a $12 million mutual option on outfielder Tommy Pham, who gets a $1.5 million buyout.

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