With the Detroit Tigers feeding the bottom of the AL Central and trying to cut their payroll, it’s no wonder Justin Verlander is on the trading block. If anyone is going to land the Cy Young and MVP winner, it’ll probably be the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers. One might think the New York Yankees would also be in the picture, but the Tigers won’t let Verlander go to an American League team.
So why does it make sense to trade Verlander? The 2011 AL MVP & Cy Young winner, a 6-time All-Star and someone who had a terrific 2016 (2nd in the Cy voting, AL best 1.001 WHIP and league-best 254 k’s) before his inconsistent 2017, but not something to suggest the 34-year old is done?
First, there’s his salary. Verlander has $13.6 million remaining on his deal this season, $56 million in 2018 and 2019 guaranteed plus a $22 million vesting option for 2020, pending on his Cy Young voting position in the previous season.
Then there’s his age. Verlander is 34, with over 2400 innings under his wings. His 4.96 ERA, 1.520 WHIP and awful 1.96 K/BB ratio this season suggests that it might be now or never for the Tigers, otherwise they won’t be able to deal him in the future.
Verlander hasn’t lost his velocity. He’s still throwing 95 mph fastballs, although they seem to be a lot easier to hit than before, with a 37.8% hard-contact rate that far surpasses his 27.1% career average per MLBtraderumors.
The Cubs, the 2016 World Series champions, are only 2nd in their division, 41-41, which right now is far away from getting them in the playoffs, via Wild Card or the division title. In the meantime, the Dodgers are leading the incredibly deep NL West, and pitching isn’t exactly the area they struggle in most. But both teams seem to be lacking in quality starts this season (Cubs are 22nd, Dodgers are 15th).
The Cubs are probably more desperate to make a move, although it probably doesn’t sit well with their plans to cut their depth and youth prospect charts in order to land someone who might be in his final useful season. The same can be said for the Dodgers, only without the desperate need to land him. In any case, it seems like the Tigers have less leverage than they would have had in the offseason regarding Verlander. Perhaps just a little more than cutting costs is what they can hope for – it’s not that likely that teams will give them the haul of youngsters they’re hoping for, not with Verlander playing the way he has in 2017.