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Justin Verlander trade rumors are out of control

Everyone wants to report on a blockbuster trade, but no one can agree on the story.

Cleveland Indians v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Last night on my drive home from the office, an alert popped up from The Score. “Report: Tigers not actively shopping P Justin Verlander.” Not even an hour later another alert pinged me, this time from Bleacher Report. “Tigers ‘could be talked into’ dealing Justin Verlander at trade deadline.”

As if trade rumors weren’t already swirling hot and heavy, these new seemingly-contradictory headlines were actually sourced from the same comment.

On Thursday morning things got worse when the Cubs — a team rumored to have shown interest in Verlander — announced a blockbuster deal with the Chicago White Sox for pitcher Jose Quintana.

Quintana’s line this season is an ERA of 4.49, a .333 win percentage, a 4.01 FIP, and a 1.323 WHIP. Verlander’s is a 4.73 ERA, a .455 win percentage, a 4.28 FIP, and a 1.519 WHIP. Quintana also doesn’t carry the same looming contract cost with him that Verlander does, making this deal a great get for the Cubs. Tigers fans, however, are asking themselves why the White Sox got this deal and not the Tigers.

For one thing, the cost of Verlander’s contract, his age, and his current performance do not warrant the same kind of return the White Sox got for Quintana. That may sound harsh, but the bottom line is, Justin Verlander simply isn’t worth as much as Tigers fans believe he is. Getting a team to eat his salary and provide quality prospects is not going to happen.

That makes the contradictory reports about his trade status all the more frustrating. It seems clear the Tigers are interested in moving Verlander, if the price is right, but the narrative continues to shift, and it’s beginning to seem as if that shift is intentional.

Initially, in the offseason, the talk was that the Tigers would listen to offers on anyone, including the veteran stars. The offseason, coming off Verlander’s tremendous 2016, would have been the ideal time to deal the ace. He placed second in Cy Young votes (first in most categories), and had shown he was still a force to be reckoned with. The same cannot be said of his 2017 season so far, which has certainly damaged his trade value.

Leading up to the trade deadline the Tigers said, once again, they were open to offers on anyone, and they’d trade Verlander for a big return. The Cubs are reported to have shown some initial interest, but it soon became clear that deal would go nowhere. Now the Cubs have taken Quintana, and it’s looking less and less likely anyone will bite on Verlander, especially anyone he would agree to be traded to.

So what of the rumors?

“Tigers not actively shopping Justin Verlander” could mean almost anything. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re closing the door on potential trades, but it does indicate they aren’t making a huge effort to shuttle the ace off somewhere else. That they “could be talked into” a trade seems almost coy, like they’re interested in the idea but need convincing.

It’s an exhausting song and dance, but the bottom line is the Tigers know Verlander’s value is down, and they know they’re not likely to get the return for him they initially wanted. By saying, “we might be interested” they’re downplaying the fact that there may be no interest from others.

Unlike what some politicians believe, in order for supply and demand to work, there must be a demand for what you’re offering. In the case of Verlander, it would appear the only interest at the moment is from reporters looking to craft a headline out of the will-they-or-won’t-they story.

The trade deadline is July 31st. Don’t be surprised if this trade tale spins in a dozen new directions before then.