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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Watson's accusers appeared on Real Sports on Tuesday night. Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images.

HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel’s heavily promoted and much anticipated examination of Deshaun Watson’s legal mess involving alleged sexual misconduct shed little new light and merely presented a summary of well worn he said/she (x22) said accusations and denials.

The episode debuted Tuesday night on the premium cable service and will be repeated dozens of times throughout the week on HBO’s platforms. Check your local listings for times and channel.

The segment was hosted by Soledad O’Brien who presented compelling face-to-face interviews with two of the quarterback’s accusers: massage therapists Ashley Solis and Kyla Hayes. Their stories were detailed and graphic. Both cried during the interviews.

Solis: “As I’m working, he deliberately grabs himself and put his penis on my hand. I pulled my hand away instantly and I started crying. I told that I’m done. I don’t want to do this anymore.”

Solis said she felt threatened when Watson, before leaving the session, allegedly told her: “I know you have a career to protect, and I know that you don’t want anyone messing with it, just like I don’t want anyone messing with mine.”

Solis added, “That’s when I got really scared because that sounded like a threat to me.”

Hayes: “He wanted me to kind of make a V motion in his pelvic area. I just kept massaging and did what he asked, until his penis kept touching me repeatedly as I did it.”

Hayes said that Watson had an orgasm, which she said was “mortifying, embarrassing and disgusting.”

O’Brien asked Hayes why she continued to have contact via email with Watson after their encounter.

Hayes: "I wasn't sure what he was capable of. He could've physically assaulted me. He could've bashed my business, so I had to protect myself and my business the best way I saw fit. Did I ever see him again after that? No. Did I give him the runaround? Yes."

O’Brien pointed out that two separate grand juries in Texas heard criminal accusations against Watson and neither found enough evidence to indict him.

Solis and Hayes, and 20 other massage therapists have filed civil suits against Watson. The cases aren’t expected to reach a courtroom until next March. Both sides could reach a settlement before then which would effectively shut down any legal action against Watson. However, both sides say they aren’t interested in any pretrial settlements. That’s what they say now, anyway.

After being banished to the sidelines for the 2021 season by the Houston Texans, Watson signed a historic, 5-year fully guaranteed $230 million contract with the Cleveland Browns.

Hayes said she feels Watson “is being rewarded for bad behavior." Solis said, "It's just like a big screw you. That's what it feels like. That we (the Browns) don't care. He can run and throw, and that's what we care about.”

Watson currently is participating in preseason workouts with the Browns and, at the moment, is cleared to play the upcoming NFL season.

That is unless the NFL suspends Watson for some, most or all of the 2022 season. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said the league is nearing completion of its independent investigation into Watson’s case and will reach a decision “shortly,” probably this summer. The NFL and NFL Players Association mutually agreed to have former U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson decide whether or not Watson violated the league’s Personal Conduct Policy and what discipline should be handed down if he did.

The Browns are scheduled to play the Texans on Dec. 4 at NRG Stadium in Houston.

O’Brien said, while producing the Real Sports piece, she tried to interview Watson, his attorneys and the Cleveland Browns for their side of the story. All declined.

During a press conference in March to announce his joining the Browns, Watson denied any inappropriate behavior with the massage therapists.

Watson: “I never assaulted any woman. I’ve never disrespected any woman. I was raised to be genuine and respect everyone around me. I’ve never done the thing that these people are alleging. My mom and my aunties didn’t raise me that way.”

Leah Graham, a member of Watson’s legal team, sat for an interview after O’Brien’s segment was complete.

Graham: "It's 22 women. It's one lawyer. There's only one lawyer who was willing to take these cases. And as we know from Ashley Solis’ deposition, Mr. (Houston attorney Tony) Buzbee was not the first, probably not the second or third lawyer she went to, but he was the only one to take her case. Why? Not because it had merit, but because he would use these cases to increase his social media following and quite frankly to get on shows like this one.”

My reaction after watching the Real Sports segment? We weren’t in the room when the massage therapists worked on Watson. We weren’t in the grand jury room when evidence against Watson was presented. We don’t know what happened. We don’t know what will happen if these cases go to trial.

Until then all we have is one big, lurid, embarrassing mess. In American courtrooms, defendants are presumed innocent. That’s often the opposite in the court of public opinion. We’ll just have to wait while the wheels of justice grind painfully slow.

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