The MLBPA issued a press release today, announcing four new entrants to free agency. Three of them were already reported upon, as Jordan Lyles, Tommy Pham and Mychal Givens all had options turned down by their respective clubs recently. The fourth was Justin Verlander, indicating he has opted out of his deal with the Astros.

Verlander, who turns 40 in April, will now be one of the most interesting free agents in recent memory. He has a track record of success that goes back almost two decades now, with his MLB debut coming back in 2005. Tommy John surgery ended his 2020 after just a single outing and then prevented him from pitching at all in 2021. Despite two effectively lost seasons, the Astros still issued him a qualifying offer a year ago, but then they quickly agreed to a new contract. It was a two-year, $50MM deal, split into $25MM per season, that allowed Verlander to opt out after 2022 as long as he pitched 130 innings on the year.

Despite Verlander’s age and long layoff, he showed little sign of slowing down. He largely stayed healthy, making one trip to the injured list due to a calf injury which only cost him about two weeks. He was able to make 28 starts, logging 175 innings and posting an incredible 1.75 ERA, easily his career best. He probably wasn’t quite as dominant as it might seem from that ERA, since his 27.8% strikeout rate was a few ticks below where it had been prior to the TJS.  But he still kept his walks down to 4.4% and only allowed 12 home runs on the year, a personal low over a full season. He’s the favorite for the AL Cy Young as awards season approaches and will now be among the most sought after free agent pitchers, alongside Jacob deGrom and Carlos Rodón.