The Houston Astros had a storybook season that culminated in their second World Series title in five years. Their ace, Justin Verlander, also had a stellar year picking up his third career Cy Young Award at the age of 39. Astros owner Jim Crane wants him back, and I’m sure Astros fans would love to see him on the mound. However, Verlander is a free agent and wants more than a one-year deal. Given how deep their rotation is, I believe the Astros would be just fine without him.
Justin Verlander had a dream season in 2022. After using all of 2021 to recover from Tommy John surgery, he led the league in wins (18) and ERA (1.75). His 1.75 ERA was also career best. He was selected to his ninth All-Star Team and won his third Cy Young Award. He also capped it off by winning the American League Comeback Player of the Year. While these feats are rare, I am sure people are wondering if Verlander has hit his peak, given his age. Nobody can duplicate a season like that, and some regression next year is expected.
Bumps in the Road
Verlander wasn’t even the best pitcher in the rotation during the postseason. While he did go 2-0, he had an alarming 5.85 ERA, and opponents batted .280 against him in the postseason. This included being chased out of game one of their ALDS match-up against the Seattle Mariners. In that game, Verlander surrendered six runs on ten hits.
Previewing a Rotation Post Verlander
The Astros have a very deep starting rotation consisting of Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Jose Urquidy, Lance McCullers, and Luis Garcia. They even have a young pitcher named Hunter Brown who’s ready to be called up to the show. Brown even made two starts in 2022, going 2-0 and having a 0.89 ERA while notching 22 strikeouts.
Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, and Jose Urquidy are still under team control and won’t become free agents until 2026. While Verlander was recovering from surgery, Framber Valdez led the rotation. That year, Valdez went 11-6, with an ERA of 3.14 along with 125 strikeouts. This season, Valdez set an MLB record with 25 consecutive quality starts while going 17-6 with an ERA of 2.82 paired with 194 strikeouts. He was practically unhittable in the postseason going 3-0 with an ERA of 1.44.
I believe Cristian Javier is ready for a bigger role in the rotation. In the 2022 regular season, he went 11-9 with an ERA of 2.54, along with 194 strikeouts. He was part of a combined no-hitter against the Yankees on the road this season. During the playoffs, he had an eye-popping ERA of 0.71. This included being a part of a combined no-hitter in the World Series.
While Lance McCullers missed most of the 2022 season with a right flexor tendon strain, he still had a stellar season. In just over 47 innings pitched, he went 4-2 with an ERA of 2.27. While he didn’t have a good postseason, that veteran presence helped Valdez and Javier thrive.
In his first real action in the rotation, Jose Urquidy was solid. In 2022, he was 13-8 with an ERA of 3.94, along with 134 strikeouts. There is a reason Jim Crane nixed a trade that would have sent him to the Cubs for Willson Contreras. While he only appeared in one postseason game, Urquidy didn’t give up a run. I believe Urquidy has a very bright future ahead.
Luis Garcia is another good pitcher on this rotation that has proven that he should be a regular starter. Last year he went 15-8 with an ERA of 3.72 to go along with 157 strikeouts. In the postseason, he went 1-1 with an ERA of 1.59. Garcia has more than held his own as a starter and deserves a more expanded role in the rotation.
He Doesn’t Necessarily Have To Comeback
While the Astros have an interest in bringing him back, it wouldn’t be a bad thing if they let him go. Their rotation is the deepest in all of baseball. Framber Valdez has proven that he can be the ace, Christian Javier is a star in the making, Luis Garcia has been stellar, Lance McCullers has continuingly given them a veteran presence, and Hunter Brown is ready for the bigs. With young talent ready to blossom along with other productive pitchers, it would be just fine if Justin Verlander left.