Lance McCullers Jr.
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

The Astros have reached a five-year contract extension worth $85 million with right-handed pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. The extension will start next season. McCullers and Houston had previously agreed to a one-year, $6.5 million contract for 2021 to avoid arbitration.

McCullers, who was facing free agency at the end of this season, said last month he wanted to get an extension done, saying Houston is his home and he didn’t want to play anywhere else.

“Houston is where I want to be. This is my home. This is where I see myself,” he said last month. “I would undoubtedly want to be here well into the future. You know, I think the real question would be, ‘Do the Astros see me here? Do the Astros see me as part of their future?’ If the Astros see me as part of their future, as a big part of the future, then I would love to stay here if it makes sense for everyone.”

He’s spent his first five MLB seasons with Houston, posting a career 3.70 ERA with 565 strikeouts in 508 innings. 

Lance McCullers, 27, is 32-25 with a 3.70 ERA in 94 regular-season games (91 starts) for the Astros, but he has never thrown more than 130 innings in a season. An All-Star in 2017, he blew out his elbow midway through the ’18 season and missed all of ’19 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. McCullers returned to the mound last year and went 3-3 with a 3.93 ERA in 11 starts, including a 2.18 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in his final eight starts.

McCullers will anchor an Astros rotation that is battling the injury bug ahead of 2021. Justin Verlander’s status for the season is uncertain after he underwent Tommy John surgery in October 2020. Framber Valdez will likely start the season on the Injured List after suffering a hand injury in Spring Training. 

Houston is seeking its fifth straight playoff appearance. During the shortened MLB campaign this past year, Houston advanced to the ALCS, but suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 7, preventing them from trying to get a ring. Houston won its first-ever World Series back in 2017, the same year where McCullers went 7-4 and played in the All-Star Game.

McCullers went from starter to postseason reliever in 2017, notably throwing 24 straight breaking pitches to earn his first major league save in a Game 7 ALCS closeout of the Yankees. McCullers also was on the mound for the start of Game 7 of the World Series against the Dodgers, opening with 2.1 scoreless innings to send Houston on its way to a 5-1 championship-clinching win.

With the team holding high expectations for this spring and summer, McCullers will now have the added pressure of living up to his new contract.