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

Who gets the next big payday for Astros?

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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Coogs beat the Sooners, 87-85. Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images.

Jamal Shead hit a short follow shot with 0.4 seconds left and No. 1 Houston beat Oklahoma 87-85 on Saturday night, giving coach Kelvin Sampson a victory over one of his former schools.

Shead missed a driving layup attempt, but corralled the rebound and put the Cougars back ahead after they blew a 15-point lead. Emanuel Sharp tipped away a desperation pass by Oklahoma’s Milos Uzan as time expired.

“The main thing (on the last shot) was to get it to the rim,” Sampson said. “We weren’t going to shoot anything outside of 5 feet. There were three ways to win that game — a whistle, make the shot or (grab) an offensive rebound and put it in — and we got the third one.”

Sampson credited the result to Houston’s “winning DNA. We had a lot of things go against us tonight. … We were just plugging the holes in the boat up.”

L.J. Cryer led Houston (26-3, 13-3 Big 12) with 23 points, making 5 of 9 3-pointers. J’Wan Roberts added 20 points on 10-of-12 shooting, and Shead scored 14 points. Houston shot 56.7% from the field and Oklahoma was at 52.7%.

Rivaldo Soares had 16 points for Oklahoma (19-10, 7-9). Le’Tre Darthard had 15 points, finishing 5 of 7 from 3-point range.

Sampson coached Oklahoma from 1994 to 2006 and ranks second in program history with 279 wins and first in winning percentage (.719). Before Saturday, he’d never coached against the Sooners, but Houston’s entry into the Big 12 for this basketball season provided that opportunity.

Sampson received a warm welcome as he entered the Lloyd Noble Arena court, with many fans applauding, cheering and standing. Just before player introductions, Sampson and his three assistants with Oklahoma ties — former players Hollis Price, Quannas White and Kellen Sampson, his son — were individually recognized with announcements and pictured on the video board.

“The memories that I will take from here are just amazing,” Kelvin Sampson said. “Oklahoma will always be home in a lot of ways.”

Houston made its first week this season at No. 1 a successful one, with two wins. The Cougars are a game ahead of No. 8 Iowa State in the conference standings with two games left in the regular season and remain in the conversation for the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Houston has won eight of the last nine games it has played as the No. 1-ranked team and is 35-5 overall while atop the AP poll.

Oklahoma dropped its second game of the week against a top-10 opponent, having lost 58-45 at Iowa State on Wednesday night.

The Sooners pushed Houston to the limit. Houston led 67-52 with 12:01 left, but the Sooners methodically closed that gap and Javian McCollum’s layup with 11.8 seconds left tied it at 85. It came after a hustle play by Uzan, who tracked down a rebound off a missed free throw and threw it off the leg of Sharp, allowing it to carom out of bounds.

Oklahoma coach Porter Moser said the vibe in the Sooners’ locker room was “tough. It wasn’t like they were happy to be close. They’re hurting. That’s a good sign. … That’s the elite of the elite and we’ve got to find a way to win that. That’s my job.

“I thought they were resilient battling back. Houston made tough shots, open shots, good shots. They do a lot of good things … but I thought we did too. We played the best team in the country, but we fell short. The margin of error when you play a team that good is small.”

Godwin went 6 of 6 from the field and led Oklahoma with 17 points, missing only the one free throw in six attempts as well. He also had seven rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Houston: Sampson surely appreciated the warm welcome from fans on his return to Oklahoma, but he’s undoubtedly glad to have the emotional game against the Sooners over with. Now he can push the Cougars to focus on finishing the regular season strong and prepare them for the postseason.

Oklahoma: A win over the nation’s No. 1 team might have pushed the Sooners up a line or two in NCAA tournament seeding, but the loss shouldn’t damage their postseason hopes too much. Oklahoma probably needs at least one win next week — at home against Cincinnati or at Texas — to stay comfortably off the NCAA bubble heading into the Big 12 Tournament.

UP NEXT:

Houston: At Central Florida on Wednesday night.

Oklahoma: Host Cincinnati on Tuesday night.

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