When the rumors started swirling over the offseason that general manager Al Avila would listen to offers on any player, the Detroit fanbase heard that with an asterisk. Anyone but ace Justin Verlander, surely.
Verlander has been a staple of the Detroit team since his debut in 2005. From 2006 onward he has been considered one of the team’s best pitchers, if not one of the best pitchers in baseball, period. He won Rookie of the year in 2006, won the Cy Young and AL MVP in 2011, placed second for the Cy Young in 2012 and 2016. He has been an All-Star six times.
By all accounts, Verlander was meant to spend his entire career in a Detroit Tigers uniform. But over the past three seasons Verlander has demonstrated that he’s not as consistent as he once was. In spite of a stellar 2016 season, he struggled in 2015 and has had his share of difficulties in the 2017 season as well with a 4.47 ERA, and 4.03 FIP, and a 1.447 WHIP in 16 games. This is a man who finished the 2011 season with a 0.920 WHIP. His numbers haven’t been this bad since the dismal 2008 season.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that the Tigers’ ace could be hitting the open trade market within the next two weeks if the team continues on its current trajectory. As of right now the Tigers are second to last in the AL Central with a 34-42 record. Unless they go on a streak of wins it seems like it’s only a matter of time before they start selling off valuable pieces and looking to rebuild.
This does not mean that the bidding war is about to begin in earnest. Nor does it mean the Tigers will send Verlander to any team willing to help absorb any part of his remaining $56 million contract. What it does mean is they will be open to hearing offers from teams, and seeing if anything would be a successful fit for the Tigers and Verlander alike. They certainly won’t be giving him up for nothing, and Verlander has a lot of red tape wrapped around his contract.
By all accounts Verlander is happy in Detroit, but he’d likely also be happy winning a championship, and that seems like an unlikely feat for the Tigers over the next couple of years. He has a no-trade clause in effect, and 10-and-5 rights, both of which give him the power to veto trade proposals.
If Verlander is going anywhere this season it will be to a team willing to bite on all or most of his $56 million contract, and that would be a team who can smell a World Series in their future. It would also need to be a team Verlander was interested in joining. Someone like the Los Angeles Dodgers might be a fit for Verlander, who owns a home in the area with fiancee Kate Upton. The Dodgers also have a 52-27 record and are leading the NL West. This is entirely speculative of course, as no teams have been specifically reported to be interested in Verlander just yet.
He won’t be the only option of interest on the open market. Players like J.D. Martinez, Ian Kinsler, and even red-hot Alex Avila will be strong bargaining chips for the Tigers as they hope to bolster their farm system and look ahead to a brighter future.