The team might have to be big spenders to keep players around

Who gets the next big payday for Astros?

The Astros locked up Alex Bregman earlier this week before arbitration even hit for him while also whipping up a new deal for relief expert Ryan Pressly. With those two deals done we turn our eyes to the players would could next be getting a new contract and what those extensions could look like.

Justin Verlander

The Cy Young runner-up from 2018 enters the final year of his seven year, $180 million contract in 2019. The thought around him has long been he has his eyes set on the bust in Cooperstown and he needs just a few more years of high-level baseball before he is a lock. This could be a deal done before or during the upcoming season.

While he seems to enjoy the organization in Houston Verlander likely is looking for two qualities in his next deal: winning and a final payday. The Astros could easily offer both of those to him. The length of the deal is the part which could get dicey. Not many pitchers end up going past their late 30's but let's assume Verlander remains on his renewed pace and he could stay until he's 40.

Possible Deal: 3 years, $90 million with a mutual option for the fourth year

Gerrit Cole

This will get expensive. Cole is young, has just unlocked his true potential, and has Scott Boras for an agent. The first season as a member of the Astros was fantastic and it ended with the highest-ever awarded salary arbitration with the number coming in at $13.5 million. There is almost no way Cole wouldn't test the free agency waters.

Think big on this deal, like the biggest ever for a pitcher. If Cole replicates his 2018, he will break records. David Price and Max Scherzer both signed seven-year deals at the age of 30. Cole will be 29. The average annual value for pitchers set by Zack Greinke of $34.4 million will also be a target. This will be the hardest negotiation of Jeff Luhnow's career and with Cole likely to hit free agency Houston won't be the only team chasing the star pitcher.

Possible Deal: 7 years, $245 million with a vesting option for an eighth year

Carlos Correa

We are a ways off from Correa's free agency, he isn't scheduled to hit the open market until 2022. He will play this year for $5 million and have two more years of arbitration. His huge deal isn't right around the corner, there won't be any Alex Bregman or Jose Altuve deals for Correa anytime soon. A deal similar to George Springer's deal is certainly possible.

Springer signed a two-year contract to buyout all but one arbitration year. Durability wasn't a concern with Springer, he missed just 22 games over the two seasons before his big raise. Correa has missed 105 games the past two years. A healthy 2019 would go a long way towards Correa getting big money.

Possible Deal: 3 years, $52.5 million (buying out one year of free agency)

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Houston goes up 1-0 in the series

Altuve, Correa help lift Astros to ALCS Game 1 win over Red Sox

Carlos Correa's go-ahead homer in the seventh inning of ALCS Game 1 helped lift the Astros to a 1-0 series lead. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Despite one rough loss to the White Sox in the ALDS, the Astros looked like the dominant team they are capable of being, taking that series 3-1 to advance and taking ownership of home-field advantage in the ALCS against the Red Sox, who upset the Rays. In Game 1, despite trailing for the middle portions of the game, Houston would get more highlight moments from the faces of the franchise to start the series with a win.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 4

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek

Losing Pitcher: Hansel Robles

Houston strikes first, but Boston sends Valdez to an early exit

Both starting pitchers worked in and out of trouble in the early goings of ALCS Game 1, starting with Framber Valdez in the top of the first. After erasing a leadoff single by inducing a double play, he went on to load the bases on a single and two walks but would strand all three runners to keep Boston off the board. The Astros jumped in front in the bottom half, with Jose Altuve working a leadoff walk, moving to second on a one-out single by Alex Bregman, advancing to third on a wild pitch, then ultimately scoring on a sac fly by Yordan Alvarez to put Houston ahead 1-0 after one frame.

They had a chance to extend their lead in the bottom of the second, taking advantage of a shaky inning by Chris Sale, who loaded the bases with one out as Houston would get two singles and a hit-by-pitch. That flipped the order over to the top, but a great diving catch by former Astro Kiké Hernández would end the inning. Hernández led off the top of the third against Valdez, and he would tie things up with a solo homer.

Things went downhill from there for Valdez and the Astros, as a one-out walk followed by a single gave the Red Sox the go-ahead run in scoring position. On a groundball that likely should have been a double play to end the inning, it would get through Altuve's legs, scoring a run and keeping the inning alive for Boston. They took advantage, getting an RBI double to extend their new lead to 3-1. Valdez would get one more out before Dusty Baker would give him the early hook, bringing in Yimi Garcia, who finished the frame.

A battle of the bullpens, Altuve ties it up

Like Valdez, Sale would also not make it through three innings, getting two outs while putting two on base before Boston would start their bullpen's night as well. Both sets of relievers settled the game down, with the Red Sox stranding two of Houston's runners in the third as well as the fifth, maintaining their two-run lead. After Garcia finished the third, Cristian Javier entered to eat up a couple of innings, and he would do just that by getting through two frames with just one hit, four strikeouts, and no runs.

Next, Phil Maton took over in the top of the sixth and erased a leadoff walk to keep things in striking distance for the home team. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put another runner on base, getting a one-out single by Chas McCormick. Two batters later, with two outs, Jose Altuve provided yet another career postseason highlight, tying the game 3-3 with a two-run home to re-energize the Minute Maid Park crowd.

Astros take ALCS Game 1

Now a brand new ballgame in the top of the seventh, Brooks Raley came in to face three batters, getting two strikeouts while allowing a single before Dusty Baker would move on to Ryne Stanek, who would get the third out. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Carlos Correa continued his march to a monster off-season contract, putting Houston back on top with a solo homer, making it 4-3.

Houston kept the script after Stanek with the new lead in hand, going to Kendall Graveman as the setup man in the top of the eighth. Despite a two-out single, he would get out of the inning with the lead intact, putting Houston three outs away from the victory. After a walk, single, and hit by pitch to start the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded, Altuve would drive in his third run of the game, getting a sac fly to extend the lead to two runs at 5-3.

That insurance run proved pivotal, as closer Ryan Pressly was met with a leadoff solo home run by Hernandez, his second of the night for Boston, to make it 5-4. Pressly refocused and was able to get the next three batters in order, though, wrapping up the win to start Houston off with a 1-0 series lead and putting them three wins away from advancing to the World Series.

Up Next: The two teams will have a moderately quick turnaround, with ALCS Game 2 scheduled to start at 3:20 PM Central on Saturday ahead of NLCS Game 1 between the Dodgers and Braves getting the night slot. The pitching matchup is expected to be Nathan Eovaldi for Boston, who is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his two starts this postseason, going opposite Luis Garcia, who had a rough outing in the ALDS for Houston, giving up five runs without completing three innings in Chicago.

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