Justin Verlander Rumors

Quick Hits: Pirates, Verlander, Camp

On this date 14 years ago, the Mets sent pitching prospect A.J. Burnett to the defending World Series champion Marlins for Al Leiter. New York's other team was also busy that day — the Yankees acquired Chuck Knoblauch from the Twins. So far today we've seen one major trade take place and here are some assorted links to read as we await the next significant move…


Tigers Notes: Cabrera, Martinez, Verlander

Miguel Cabrera, Alex Avila and Victor Martinez collected MVP votes this year, but none topped the winner of the award, Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander. Here are some updates on the Tigers' top players…

  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports that the Tigers aren’t considering moving Cabrera to third base in 2012, though they may consider playing him at the hot corner during interleague play. Doing so would enable the Tigers to keep Martinez in the lineup without subjecting him to the grind of catching (he'd play first). 
  • Morosi also credits Cabrera for putting together an MVP-caliber season after being arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated during Spring Training.
  • One veteran baseball executive told Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com that Verlander would be positioned for a deal worth at least $25MM per season if he were a free agent right now. Before the 2010 season, Verlander signed a five-year, $80MM extension that provided the Tigers with three additional years of team control. If he hadn’t signed the deal Verlander would be one of the offseason’s top free agents and might be positioned to eclipse C.C. Sabathia's record $161MM contract (no starting pitcher has obtained more guaranteed money).

Justin Verlander Wins AL MVP

Justin Verlander won the American League MVP award, according to the Baseball Writers Association of America.  Verlander took home the AL's Cy Young award last week.  He's the first pitcher to win the MVP since Dennis Eckersley in 1992, and the first starter since Roger Clemens in '86.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Bautista, Curtis Granderson, Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Adrian Gonzalez, Michael Young, Dustin Pedroia, and Evan Longoria rounded out the top ten.  Ian Kinsler, Alex Avila, Paul Konerko, C.C. Sabathia, Adrian Beltre, Ben Zobrist, Victor Martinez, James Shields, Mark Teixeira, Asdrubal Cabrera, Alex Gordon, Josh Hamilton, and David Robertson also received votes.    



Dombrowski On Verlander, Raburn, Worth, Betemit

Justin Verlander won the the 2011 American League Cy Young Award unanimously and he gets an extra — though unofficial — vote from Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski. 

"He's a real special player who means a lot to our community," Dombrowski explained at the MLB General Manager Meetings in Milwaukee. "He's been a Tiger since the day he was drafted and he'll be with us for a long time."

Verlander would have been a free agent this offseason had he not signed his current five-year, $80MM contract before the 2010 season. There's no telling what Verlander would have been worth coming off a season like this, so it's no surprise Dombrowski's glad to have locked the right-hander up for three of his free agent seasons. 

Looking ahead to 2012, the Tigers want to get Ryan Raburn's bat in the lineup and may play him at second base at times next year. Danny Worth is another second base candidate for the Tigers, who are also weighing external options.

Wilson Betemit met Dombrowski's expectations after joining the Tigers in a midseason trade, but the GM anticipates adding an extra catcher this offseason, which will limit the Tigers' roster flexibility in 2012. The Tigers haven't pursued Betemit aggressively to this point and Dombrowski didn't suggest that will change. The Tigers want to keep Victor Martinez in the everyday lineup, so adding a backup for Alex Avila is on the agenda this winter.


Justin Verlander Wins AL Cy Young

Tigers righty Justin Verlander unanimously won the American League Cy Young award, announced the Baseball Writers Association of America.  Verlander posted a 2.40 ERA with 250 strikeouts and 24 wins in 251 regular season innings this year, leading the league in all four categories.  The Tigers have him under contract through 2014.

Also receiving votes: Jered Weaver, James Shields, C.C. Sabathia, Jose Valverde, C.J. Wilson, Dan Haren, Mariano Rivera, Josh Beckett, Ricky Romero, and David Robertson.  Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News provided the lone vote for Robertson, rating him the league's best reliever.

Shields gets a $500K increase in his 2012 salary with the top five finish, tweets Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times.     


Central Notes: Indians, La Russa, Verlander

A few links to pass along regarding clubs in the Central divisions …


Quick Hits: Rockies, Pelfrey, Verlander, Brewers

Links for Thursday…

  • The Rockies have signed second round pick Carl Thomore, reports Nick Groke of The Denver Post. Thomore, a high school outfielder from New Jersey, was the 77th overall pick of the draft, and that carries a slot recommendation of approximately $472K.
  • Multiple sources have told Jeff Passon of Yahoo! that labor talks between the owners and players' union are going well, unlike labor talks in the other major sports (Twitter link).
  • Mike Pelfrey faced the Tigers this afternoon, and Jason Beck of MLB.com notes that Detroit had interest in the righty during the 2005 draft (Twitter link). The Mets took him one pick before the Tigers could grab him though.
  • Interestingly enough, Justin Verlander (who pitched against the Mets this afternoon) was close to pitching for them at one point as Brian Costa of The Wall Street Journal explains. The Mets were prepared to draft Verlander with the third overall pick in 2004, but the Tigers grabbed him with the second pick.
  • Brewers manager Ron Roenicke expects a position player to be demoted once Takashi Saito is ready to be activated off the disabled list this weekend, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel
  • ESPN's Jerry Crasnick wrote about nine players that have stepped up to help their teams following injury. Hot stove afterthoughts Ryan Vogelsong and Phil Humber top his list.
  • Matt Eddy of Baseball America rounded up this week's collection of minor league transactions, which includes a ton of draft and undrafted free agent signings.

Verlander Talks Career Development, Goals

Justin Verlander has made 173 regular season starts, pitched in the World Series and appeared in a pair of All-Star Games. Yet he has never felt as sharp as he did yesterday, when he no-hit the Blue Jays. 

“I will say this is probably the best I’ve felt on a mound in my professional career so far,” he said this morning.

Verlander

That includes his 2007 no-hitter and the 15 other times he has fanned ten-plus batters in a single game. Verlander, the American League leader with 55 strikeouts, pitched to contact yesterday and finished the game with four strikeouts.

“That was my game plan from the start,” he said. “It was to get contact. I wanted to get balls in play. Especially once I realized my curveball wasn’t that great.”

The result: an efficient outing for the Tigers’ ace, who finished the day with a season-low 108 pitches. His fastball reached triple digits repeatedly and remained his go-to pitch. Early in the contest, Verlander concluded that his curve was mediocre and that his slider was better than usual, so he adjusted his game plan with catcher Alex Avila and decided to throw more sliders.

“I commented to Alex after the second or third inning, ‘it’s pretty good, right?’ He said ‘Yeah, it’s nasty. Keep throwing it 82-83 [mph]. It’s got a lot of bite to it.’ So I went with what he said and just kept throwing it,” Verlander explained.

Avila caught Armando Galarraga’s near-perfect game last summer, so he has danced with history before. He says guiding Verlander’s 100 mph fastball through nine no-hit frames may have looked harder than it was.

“Yesterday was just amazing,” Avila said. “It’s an easy day for a catcher and especially to do it on a turf field is pretty impressive also. For a ball not to get through is pretty amazing.”

Nolan Ryan (7), Sandy Koufax (4), Bob Feller (3) and Cy Young (3) are the only pitchers with three or more no-hitters since 1900. Now that Verlander has two no-hitters, he has his sights set on making more history. The right-hander jokes that he intends to match Ryan’s record of seven no-hitters, but he’s serious about his ambition and intends to continue building his resume. At 28, he believes he’s entering his prime.

“I really feel like I’m coming into myself as a pitcher,” he said. “And I definitely think there will be more opportunities. I think things have to go in your favor to throw a no-hitter. Things just have to work out right. I feel as long as I continue to mature as a pitcher and grow the way I think I am, there’ll definitely be some opportunities there. Whether it goes in my favor or not, I don’t know.”

Verlander started the no-hit bid slowly and methodically and says he impressed himself with his in-game approach. He stayed calm with help from his backstop, who says nerves weren’t an issue at all for the battery.

“No, no,” Avila said. “When your pitcher is that good, it makes it easy to call the pitches, because you know he’s going to make his pitches. It makes for one easy day for me.”

If anyone was nervous, it was Verlander’s family. They followed the perfect game bid and eventual no-hitter without being able to see what was happening.

“They were following on their phones, which had to be the most nerve-wracking thing. Can you imagine sitting there in the 8th inning, looking at a perfect game, 3-2 count, a bunch of foul balls,” Verlander said, alluding to his face-off with J.P. Arencibia, the Blue Jays’ lone baserunner.

If Verlander has it his way, Saturday won’t be the last time his flirtations with history make his fans, friends and family squirm.

Photo courtesy Icon SMI.


2004 Draft Throwdown

Now that six years have passed since the 2004 draft, let's take a look at a few of the choices teams made between prospects at the same position to get a sense of who came out ahead in the great pick-by-pick spin of fate.

  • Justin Verlander (Tigers) vs. Phil Humber (Mets) vs. Jeff Niemann (Rays): Here we have a textbook study in the perils of pitching prospects. In Verlander, the second overall pick, the Tigers got a true ace. He has posted three top-seven finishes in the Cy Young voting already, and struck out an incredible 269 batters in 240 innings last year. Picking third, the Mets got an ace as well, sort of: Humber was eventually traded in the deal that landed them Johan Santana. Needless to say, Humber has not been an ace himself, pitching to an ERA over 5.00 at Triple-A for a second straight year in 2010. Niemann, meanwhile, has profiled somewhere in-between, though his 2010 so far suggests he may be fulfilling the promise of his status as fourth overall pick. He's pitching to a 2.83 ERA in 2010, though the strikeout rate (just 5.8 per nine innings) suggests that ERA will likely rise. Overall winner here? Everyone except the Twins.
  • Billy Butler (Royals) vs. Josh Fields (White Sox): Well, it certainly appears the Royals got the better of this battle of third basemen. Butler, picked 14th, didn't stick at third, but he is finally getting some attention as a legitimately excellent bat, putting up a .341/.396/.494 line in 2010 so far. Meanwhile, Fields, picked 18th, has struggled to remain on the field, and is actually now property of the Royals as well, coming over this winter in the deal for Mark Teahen. But he will miss most, if not all, of the 2010 season after having hip surgery in April. Fields, 28 in December, has had some impressive Triple-A seasons, so he may eventually fulfill his promise. Butler, however, is clearly here to stay. Overall winner? The Royals. Almost makes up for Alex Gordon!
  • Glen Perkins (Twins) vs. Phil Hughes (Yankees): Lost in the many months of Johan Santana trade talks back in 2007-2008, which centered around whether the Yankees would deal Phil Hughes, was the realization that the Twins could have drafted Hughes themselves. Instead, at pick 22, Minnesota took Glen Perkins, a college product out of University of Minnesota. The outlook isn't brilliant for Perkins at this point, with a 7.76 ERA in Triple-A, though his strikeout rate is at least relatively strong. Meanwhile, Phil Hughes has become one of the best pitchers in the American League, with a fantastic 74 strikeouts and 22 walks in 75.1 innings in support of his 3.11 ERA. Hughes won't be 24 until later this month. And among those who won't be celebrating his birthday? The Twins.

Odds & Ends: Pirates, Astros, Castro, Crawford

Let's start this Friday off with some links…

  • Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com feels that Neal Huntington's rebuilding plan has yet to yield results. 
  • Olney tweets that rival executives feel that both Oswalt and Lance Berkman would have trade value, but only if Houston was willing to eat a lot of money and accept secondary prospects in return. Yesterday we learned that Berkman would be willing to waive his no-trade clause.
  • SI.com's Melissa Segura hears that MLB will announce a pilot program that will allow international amateurs to register before the July 2nd signing period begins, which should streamline age investigations and signings (link goes to Twitter).
  • Meanwhile, MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez chatted with MLB's Dominican office consultant Sandy Alderson about what he hopes to achieve regarding how he hopes to improve the international market.
  • ESPN's Enrique Rojas tweets that the Cubs have called up top shortstop prospect Starlin Castro. The 20-year-old was rated as the 16th best prospect in the game by Baseball America prior to the season, and was hitting .376/.421/.569 in 121 Double-A plate appearances. Chicago has already pushed his free agency back a year, but he can still qualify as a Super Two after 2012.
  • Richard Justice of The Houston Chronicle mentions that the Astros have only $44MM in salary commitments for next season, most of which is tied up in Roy Oswalt and Carlos Lee. I respectfully disagree that Oswalt's $16MM salary "can easily be traded." How many teams have that much room in their budget?
  • ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that Carl Crawford has put himself in a pretty good position going into free agency. The Rays' left fielder is hitting .343/.408/.571, but is only 7-for-11 in stolen base opportunities, and there's still 83% of the season left the play.
  • ESPN's Keith Law and Jason Churchill go back and redo the 2004 draft. Both see Justin Verlander and Dustin Pedroia going 1-2 in a redraft.