No Tigers reunion: Justin Verlander set to return to Astros

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

There will be no Justin Verlander reunion. At least, not in Detroit

Verlander, the right-handed ace and two-time Cy Young Award winner, is re-signing with the Houston Astros, according to his brother, Ben Verlander, who made the announcement on Twitter on Wednesday night.

The news came hours after Verlander turned down a qualifying offer from the Astros worth more than $18 million for 2022. The deal is worth $25 million for 2022, with a player option for 2023.

Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander, right, listens to manager A.J. Hinch during a press conference introducing Verlander on Sept. 3, 2017, in Houston.

Verlander, who will be 39 in February, is coming off Tommy John surgery that has limited him to just one start and six innings over the past two seasons. He recently threw in front of scouts from more than 20 major-league teams, including the Tigers, and reportedly touched 96 mph.

In Verlander's last full season, 2019, he won the Cy Young. In 2017, he helped lead the Astros to a World Series championship, after he was traded from his original team, the Tigers.

Talk of a possible Verlander-Tigers reunion has been discussed for years, almost from the moment he was dealt from Detroit at the end of August 2017. Some in the Tigers front office believed by the time his deal with the Astros was up, the Tigers would be ready to contend again, and thus it could be a match for the future Hall of Famer to finish his career where it started.

But Tommy John surgery complicated those plans, and might've convinced the Tigers to see how he does elsewhere in 2022. Detroit, after all, is expected to compete in 2023, but legitimately contend by 2024.

The Tigers, earlier this week, signed left-handed starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez to a five-year, $77 million contract. They could still use another starter, with injuries to Spencer Turnbull and Matthew Boyd.

Verlander won 183 games over 12.5 seasons with the Tigers, winning the Cy Young and MVP awards in 2011. He threw two no-hitters for the Tigers, and led them to two World Series and five playoff appearances.

But in 2017, with the Tigers embarking on a long and painful rebuild, he was dealt at the last second to the Astros for a package of prospects, including Daz Cameron and Jake Rogers.

With Houston, he is 43-15 with a 2.45 ERA — plus that World Series ring, which has since been buried in a cloud of controversy, over the Astros' sign-stealing scandal that cost manager AJ Hinch his job (and eventually led him to the Tigers). It was Hinch who pushed Astros ownership to make the trade, after initially declining to do so ahead of the July 31 trade deadline. Verlander, at the time, was interested in the big-market teams, including the Dodgers, Yankees and Cubs. The Dodgers and Yankees weren't interested — the Dodgers would go on to lose the World Series to the Astros — and the Cubs didn't have the prospects.

Verlander began his career with the Tigers in 2005, after he was the second overall pick in 2004 out of Old Dominion. For his career, he is 226-129 with a 3.33 ERA and 3,013 strikeouts.

His brother, Ben, played in the Tigers' system from 2011-17 and now is a media personality with Fox Sports.

We're running a new-subscriber special. Support local journalism, and subscribe here.

Twitter: @tonypaul1984