What a difference a week makes.
Earlier this month, even as interest in Justin Wilson skyrocketed, it seemed as if the market for starting pitcher Justin Verlander had gone dry. Then a Houston Astros rumor surfaced, and a Cubs rumor, and before we knew it, it seemed like the market for Verlander was very much alive.
As of Monday, things are reaching a fever pitch — so to speak — with one rival GM suggesting to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand that while most interest in Verlander is just “idle discussion” in that GM’s mind it seems likely Verlander will be dealt ahead of the deadline.
Adding fuel to the fire is the recent injury to Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, who will likely miss the next four-to-six weeks of play, as reported by Ken Rosenthal. This is something the Dodgers can’t afford to wait on, and it seems obvious they will seek an outside arm to bolster their rotation.
Verlander isn’t the only option for the Dodgers, who may also look at a younger arm like Oakland’s Sonny Gray, or another established starter like the Rangers’ Yu Darvish, both of whom are currently available, and will cost less than Verlander.
What makes the Dodgers interest especially intriguing is that the Los Angeles team is likely to be one that Verlander might accept a trade on. He and fiancee Kate Upton own a home in the area, and with the Dodgers leading the National League in wins, they would represent a golden opportunity for Verlander to finally play his way to a World Series ring. Since final say in a trade falls to Verlander, it makes sense to assess how likely he would be to accept the trade, and Los Angeles seems like a logical fit.
Since the Tigers have been vocal about not wanting to take on too much of Verlander’s remaining contract, a team will need to be willing to pay big, and likely provide some prospect return, if the Tigers will let go of their franchise ace. Verlander has been a Tiger since his 2005 debut, and there’s no way the team should trade him simply to offload payroll.
In addition to the new Dodgers interest, Jon Morosi has reported that the Chicago Cubs continue to lurk in the periphery, having not given up on the idea of taking on both Verlander and catcher Alex Avila. The Cubs, having just claimed the number one spot in the NL Central, are eager to stay there, and could use some help to bolster their rotation. Avila is a logical fit for the club, and Verlander would also be a slight upgrade over some of their pitching options, but the Cubs’ interest has been tepid at best up until now, although it has been consistent.
What’s more, the Tigers appear to be preparing themselves for the eventuality of a Verlander trade.
Drew VerHagen will be in Detroit and available to start tonight if trade talks advanced to point that Tigers decided to scratch Verlander.— Evan Woodbery (@evanwoodbery) July 24, 2017
What these rumors prove is that Verlander is still very much a name in play, and may be moved soon, however unlikely that seemed a week ago.