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Astros' Justin Verlander declines option, becomes free agent

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Ace pitcher Justin Verlander helped the Houston Astros win the 2022 World Series last week. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI.. | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/d6fa8b16bcade80182c0ff0115d9f2e4/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Ace pitcher Justin Verlander helped the Houston Astros win the 2022 World Series last week. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI.. | License Photo

Nov. 10 (UPI) -- Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander, a finalist to win the American League Cy Young Award, declined his $25 million player option for 2023, the Major League Baseball Players Association announced Thursday.

The nine-time All-Star, former MVP, two-time Cy Young Award winner and two-time World Series champion becomes one of the most prized players in this off-season's free agency pool.

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Verlander, 39, won an American League-best 18 games and logged an MLB-best and career-low 1.75 ERA in 28 starts this season. He allowed just four hits and one run over five innings to help the Astros beat the Phillies last week in Game 5 of the World Series.

Verlander, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2004 MLB Draft, made his MLB debut in 2005 for the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers traded Verlander to the Astros in 2017.

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The right-handed ace ranks 56th all-time with 244 career victories. He ranks 23rd in MLB history with 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings. He also ranks 12th all-time with 3,198 strikeouts.

The players union also said Thursday that New York Mets pitcher Mychal Givens, Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jordan Lyles and Boston Red Sox outfielder Tommy Pham will all become free agents after their teams declined 2023 options.

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Lyles, 32, went 12-11 with a 4.42 ERA in 32 starts last season for the Orioles. He owns a career 5.10 ERA over 321 appearances. Givens, 32, went 7-3 with a 3.38 ERA in 59 appearances last season, which he split between the Chicago Cubs and Mets. He owns a career 3.40 ERA over 419 appearances.

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Pham, 34, hit .236 with 17 home runs and 63 RBIs in 144 games last season for the Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds. He has a career average of .259, with 114 home runs and 97 stolen bases in 876 games.

Eligible MLB players became free agents Sunday. Finalists for 2022 regular-season awards were announced earlier this week. Most contract option decisions were due Thursday. Free agents were allowed to negotiate new deals and sign with new teams Thursday.

Houston Astros defeat Philadelphia Phillies to win World Series

The Houston Astros celebrate with the Commissioner's Trophy after defeating the Philadelphia Phillies 4-1 during Game 6 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park in Houston on November 5, 2022. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI. | License Photo

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