Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander’s name has been central to a lot of Major League Baseball trade gossip over the past several days. One of the more recent teams to be mentioned in connection with Verlander is the Los Angeles Dodgers. Recently, the Dodgers lost Clayton Kershaw to a back injury, one that will reportedly take him out for 4-6 weeks. Some see Verlander as a solution to the open spot in the Los Angeles rotation now. However, in the buyers’ and sellers’ markets ahead of the trade deadline, Verlander looks like a big risk.
Verlander is signed through the 2020 season. When teams are looking to buy a player ahead of the trade deadline, they are often looking for short-term help to get them over the hump. However, taking on Verlander’s contract means possibly keeping him for the remainder of this season and, quite possibly, the following three seasons after that. It might not sound bad, but here’s the one caveat for the buyer – an $89 million commitment. On top of that, Verlander is getting into his mid-30s and he is not as bright of a light this season as he has been in the past.
Verlander is 5-7 right now, which may be an unfair stat to emphasize too much. After all, pitchers can have their record affected by run support. However, Verlander also has a 4.54 ERA and his WHIP is going sky-high this season at 1.47. His WHIP is the highest it has been compared to any full season of his career. He has also issued 55 walks through 20 starts, this after only giving up 57 in 34 starts in all of 2016.
Now, for the Tigers, it is a good time to try and sell Verlander. The question then becomes how much money do they have to give up in to make it work. He still has almost $11 million left to be paid this season. Any contending team that wants to take him on will need to finagle a deal that is creative with accounting. But don’t be surprised if Verlander is just a bust after possibly getting traded. From a statistical perspective, he is nowhere near the pitcher that he was last season and past seasons before that. His record should improve with a better team supporting him defensively and with runs. But the career-high WHIP he has at the moment should not be ignored. He could be an extremely high-priced pitcher that doesn’t give a team a return on its investment.
All this suggests is any type of Verlander deal for the Tigers to make will be complicated. He has a lot of money owed, he is signed for years to come, and he’s not an ace this season. The contending team that decides to take a leap of faith and makes the trade for Verlander remains to be seen. And who gets the better end of the deal will be something to watch as well.