MLB Notebook: Verlander returns to Houston

Profile Picture: Andrew Champagne

November 18th, 2021

More awards have been announced across Major League Baseball, several high-profile free agents will be returning to familiar surroundings, and one wild card is headed west. The hot stove is beginning to heat up just a bit, and all of this news tops this week’s MLB Notebook.

Ray, Burnes Take Home Pitching Awards

MLB recognized two premier pitchers Wednesday with the announcement of two of its most recognizable awards. Robbie Ray and Corbin Burnes won the American League and National League Cy Young Awards, and it’s the first such trophy for both hurlers.

Ray entered free agency after going 13-7 for the Toronto Blue Jays, while Burnes, from the Milwaukee Brewers, led Major League Baseball with a 2.43 ERA.

Verlander Returns to Houston

Justin Verlander’s foray into free agency didn’t last long. The veteran righty agreed to return to the Astros on a one-year, $25 million contract.

Verlander has pitched just once since the end of the 2019 season, but his Hall of Fame-caliber resume doesn’t need much explanation. He went 21-6 in his last full season, and a return to that form could lead to another deep postseason run for the reigning American League champions.

Belt Back to San Francisco

Over in the National League, this season’s NL West champions finalized a deal to bring a key piece back to the lineup. First baseman Brandon Belt accepted a one-year qualifying offer that will pay him $18.4 million during the 2022 campaign.

He bashed a career-high 29 home runs in 97 games this season, and that came after he posted a 1.015 OPS during the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign.

Thor Leaves New York, Joins the Angels

Noah Syndergaard and the Los Angeles Angels agreed to a one-year, $21 million contract earlier this week.

The Angels entered the offseason desperate for pitching help and clearly weren’t afraid to pay top-dollar for quality arms. The question is, can Syndergaard find the form he flashed several years ago? He missed the entire 2020 season and pitched just two innings in 2021. If the Thor we saw in 2018 shows up, he could make $21 million look like a bargain, but that’s far from a certainty.