The Tigers are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to Justin Verlander.
On the one hand, shedding his contract would make room on a payroll that is suffocating the team, and also move an aging starter who may be entering the declining part of his career. From a rebuild perspective it makes sense to trade Verlander if the Tigers can find a suitor willing to take on contract costs and send promising prospects in return.
This would be the “Future Outlook” perspective.
On the other hand, trading Verlander would mean losing a pillar of the team, a player who has been with the Tigers for two World Series appearances, has won countless awards, and alongside Miguel Cabrera is unquestionably the face of the Tigers organization. To trade him, especially just to ease the Tigers wallet, would infuriate fans, shake faith in the team, and signal a win-later shift of purpose.
This is the “What Are You Doing to Our Team, You Idiots?” perspective.
Jon Morosi took to MLB.com today to discuss what the potential Verlander trade, what’s holding it up, and what the results might be for the Tigers.
Morosi writes, “Team officials are wary of making a trade in which they pay a substantial percentage of Verlander's future salary and/or accept an inferior return because of the large contract.”
While this is nothing we didn’t already know, it seems like a good time to remind ourselves that the real difficulty in moving Verlander isn’t his age, or his uneven 2017 season. After all, in his last four starts Verlander has a 2.77 ERA. The problem is a $28 million a year salary, and how hard that will be to swallow for another club.
“Rival executives are aware of the pressure the Tigers are under to streamline their Major League payroll while closing the gap between their own farm system and that of the division-rival White Sox. That won't help Detroit's bargaining position, as the baseball industry engages in brinksmanship between now and Monday's 4 p.m. ET Deadline.”
This summarizes the difficulty of the Tigers position brilliantly. They need to get younger, and build towards a future. But they also want to get cheaper. This means the Tigers find themselves with their backs against the wall, and general managers from other teams know it.
As the trade deadline creeps closer, general manager Al Avila and owner Chris Ilitch will need to make some hard decisions about what their goals are, because it will play a huge part in the deal they accept. Do they eat salary for prospects, or move Verlander to clear a chunk of money for the future?
No matter how we look at it, moving Verlander is a trade the Tigers need to handle carefully, and there is no way the majority of fans will be happy with any return. The next week is going to be a strong indicator of how the team will be run over the next several years.