2. Justin Verlander
Is Justin Verlander ever going to decline (again)? Before he hit the IL with a calf issue, the right-hander was absolutely carving with these numbers: 16-3, 1.84 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 208 ERA+, 2.72 FIP, and 154 strikeouts in 24 starts (152 innings) … in his FIRST season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
The 39-year-old is pitching like his vintage, MVP self, and it’s hard to believe he’ll opt into his $25 million player option for 2023. At this point, someone might give him a Max Scherzer-esque multi-year contract that pays him $35 million or more. Wouldn’t you?
If Kershaw leaves, this might be the best veteran replacement who has the requisite postseason/spotlight experience, since Verlander’s been to four World Series and has won an MVP, two Cy Youngs and Rookie of the Year. Turns out he’s getting better with age and might win another Cy Young in 2022.
Whatever the price, the Dodgers might not even care because it won’t be a deal in excess of three seasons, which still aligns with Betts’, Chris Taylor’s and Freddie Freeman’s tenures in LA. Though Verlander was on the 2017 cheating Astros squad, it’s hard to imagine Dodgers fans not welcoming one of the best pitchers in history with open arms.