Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander clears waivers, Astros still interested?

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 08: Justin Verlander
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 08: Justin Verlander /

The Detroit Tigers ace cleared waivers, but will Justin Verlander stay for the rest of the season? The Houston Astros seem interested in his services.

On August 4, the most dominant pitcher in recent Detroit Tigers history, and one of the best in the majors, cleared waivers. Once an asset that nobody in Detroit would have wanted to see leave, Justin Verlander was openly shopped to the highest bidder before the trade deadline, which never materialized.

Or could a deal still be made? Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweeted a possible landing spot for Verlander this month: the Houston Astros.

Mark Polishuk of MLB Trade Rumors mentioned that the Tigers and the Astros discussed Verlander and reliever Justin Wilson before the deadline, though Wilson ultimately went to the Cubs. After mentioning the many reasons why a Verlander move would be quite difficult, Polishuk also stated that Houston should nevertheless remain motivated to bolster its pitching staff, as its deadline acquisitions were limited to nabbing Francisco Liriano from the Blue Jays as a bullpen piece.

Putting that trade into perspective, the Astros’ only real move was for a starting pitcher who was 6-5 with a 5.88 ERA, so that they could have a left arm in the bullpen. Liriano has since gone 0-2 with two hits and two earned runs, three runs in total, over the course of only an inning of work.

Scott Polacek of Bleacher Report stated:

"“Houston is in a unique win-now scenario at a dominant 71-40. It is 15 games ahead of the second-place Seattle Mariners in the American League West, and anything less than a World Series appearance could be seen as a failure after such an overwhelming start to the season.”"

It’s hard to imagine an overwhelming amount of people in Houston seeing an Astros team not make the World Series as a complete failure, as the team has struggled for so many years; however, not at least making a competitive effort to get there would certainly discourage Astros fans from thinking that their team wants it bad enough.

Sure, Verlander’s 34 years of age, his huge contract remaining through 2019, no-trade clause and inconsistent performance this season are obstacles according to Polishuk. Yet, they are only obstacles to other teams.

The Astros are only 16th in the majors in total payroll and actually drop to 22nd in 2018 and 23rd in 2019 with the current roster. It is true that some of the young talent that the Astros have gathered will be expecting a big payday when their contracts come up, but Houston would still have a solid pitcher in Verlander added to their rotation as a sign that they could win more than just the 2017 World Series. Many of the younger players could learn from Verlander’s Cy Young award-winning experiences, whether on the mound or just how to carry themselves in the big leagues.

It’s also not like Verlander is a bum right now either. After posting a 5-6 record and a 4.73 ERA to start the season, the wily veteran has posted a 2-1 record and a 2.51 ERA after the All-Star break. Verlander has the third-highest amount of innings pitched (131.0) against American League teams and has posted a .249 opposing batting average. Rick Porcello, last season’s AL Cy Young winner sits at .287.

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Jason Vargas of the Kansas City Royals is tied for wins with Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox, but Vargas has posted a .253 opposing batting average on a better-hitting team than the Tigers. If Verlander was on the Astros, who have the best offense by far in both major leagues, maybe he could have some more wins to elevate him back into the dominant pitcher conversation.

It would be foolish for Houston to not at least consider Verlander; however, would Verlander want to waive his no-trade clause?

He’s 34 on a team that does not look like it will contend for a title before he retires. The Tigers are 51-59, good enough for fourth in the AL Central and six games out of a Wild Card spot. As a team, Detroit is hitting .259, good enough for 11th in the majors, but their veteran RBI machines Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera are either the same age or even older than Verlander. Even their best hitter for the season, Justin Upton, is hitting an ordinary .278. The team’s offense is on a definite decline at the time that Verlander has reached the point in his career where he finally needs run support.

Detroit must feel like home to Verlander, but Houston is actually a contender and will be for a number of years. Does Verlander really want to stay with the Tigers and spend the twilight of his career not competing for a championship? Highly unlikely. With the young and exciting atmosphere happening for the Astros, it could just be the perfect remedy for Verlander to regain his old form or at least a chance to give back to the game while, at the same time, achieving the one thing that has eluded him: a World Series championship.

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Both parties would likely be happy with the arrangement, as long as Detroit did not ask for too much in return. Prospects would make sense, so the Astros would not have to give up any of their MLB-leading starters. Do they have assets attractive enough to capture Detroit’s eyes? Stay tuned.