MLB free-agency grades: Houston Astros bet on more greatness from Justin Verlander

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The offseason run on free-agent starting pitchers continued on Wednesday with the news that longtime ace Justin Verlander has agreed to a deal to return to the Houston Astros. ESPN's Jeff Passan reported that Verlander will sign for one guaranteed season at $25 million, plus a player option for 2023, also reportedly valued at $25 million.

How did the Astros do? Let's grade it.

Pitchers have come back from two-year, injury-related absences. One encouraging example that ought to be fresh in everyone's mind is 2021 National League Cy Young finalist Zack Wheeler, who did not pitch in a big league game in either 2015 or 2016. New York Yankees righty Jameson Taillon became an elite hurler after missing two straight seasons as a prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates' system.

The big difference and, hence, the big uncertainty when it comes to Verlander is that most anecdotal cases you can think of where a pitcher missed that much time because of a major injury, and returned to be elite, involved players a heck of a lot younger than him. The history of players of Verlander's ilk, in this situation, is uncertain. The Astros embraced that uncertainty when they declared their willingness to pay Verlander -- who has pitched in one big league game in the past two seasons and will be 39 on Opening Day -- $50 million for the next two years.