Astros pitcher Verlander declines player option and enters free agency

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Two-time AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander entered free agency less than a week after winning the World Series with the Houston Astros.

Verlander exercised the player option in his contract, as he seeks a substantive pay rise and multi-year deal in the open market, with the Astros due to pay him $25 million in 2023.

The 39-year-old is firmly in line to win the 2022 AL Cy Young Award, which will be announced on Thursday, after posting a 1.75 ERA, striking out 185 batters in 175 innings over 28 starts this season.

The Astros have resolved to do their best to retain Verlander, with owner Jim Crane and general manager James Click discussing the pitcher's future at length this week.

"We've been talking to him and we're working on it. We're going to do our best to try to keep him," Crane said on Wednesday.

"What's great about this team is the pitching depth, so deep, and hopefully Verlander's on that list."

Verlander claimed his career-first World Series victory during the Astros' recent triumph, in what was his ninth WS start.

The Astros pitching staff includes Framber Valdez, Ryan Pressly, Bryan Abreu, Cristian Javier, Hector Neris, Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy and Lance McCullers Jr.

Valdez, Pressly, Javier and Verlander were all named as nominees in the All-MLB Team on Thursday.