The Brewers have interest in Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander, reports Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter links). Milwaukee has been linked on multiple occasions to rotation pieces that it can control beyond the 2017 season, though there’s yet to be much of a serious connection to the longtime Detroit ace. Notably, Fenech adds that the Cubs are still monitoring Verlander and further reports that while the Astros have interest, their involvement in talks “has been minimal.”
Milwaukee is currently trailing the division-rival Pirates in today’s game and has seen its lead on the NL Central dwindle to 1.5 games with both the Cubs and Pirates on winning streaks. The Brewers have had a top-heavy rotation for much of the season, and that only became a truer statement when Chase Anderson, their second-best starter in 2017, landed on the disabled list with an oblique strain that is likely to sideline him into the month of August.
The obstacles standing in the way of a Verlander trade (to any club) are notable. Verlander is owed about $67MM through the end of the 2019 season and has a full no-trade clause that allows him to veto any trade scenario with which the Tigers approach him. He’s also in the midst of one of his worst big league seasons, although he’s been sharper over his past three outings, which may at least present scouts with some confidence that he’s rounding into form.
Whether that’s enough of a sample to convince any team — let alone a fairly low-payroll club like the Brewers — to take on a significant chunk of his remaining contract remains to be seen. The Tigers are reportedly willing to include “some” cash in a trade to help enhance the return they’d get, but they’d likely have to pay down a major chunk of the contract in order to both find a taker and receive meaningful prospects in return. The Brewers have a fairly clean slate when it comes to their long-term payroll outlook, with only Ryan Braun and Eric Thames on guaranteed contracts beyond the current season, but they do have quite a few important players up for arbitration raises this winter (including Jimmy Nelson, Chase Anderson, Jonathan Villar, Hernan Perez and Carlos Torres).
While it’s certainly possible that there’s some gamesmanship at play here — it’d behoove the Tigers to play up the interest of two closely competing division rivals, after all — the Brewers have been linked to controllable rotation help frequently enough that it’d almost be a surprise if they didn’t check in on the Verlander market and gauge the asking price. As for the Cubs, they’ve already acquired Jose Quintana from the White Sox, but there have been indications since that time that they’re still on the lookout for pitching help, and for a team with considerable payroll capacity and questions in their long-term rotation, the notion of acquiring Verlander and having some of his $28MM salary in 2018-19 offset undoubtedly holds appeal.
The Astros were said, as of this morning, to still be in the market for Verlander, though there have also been reports that talks between Houston and Oakland regarding Sonny Gray have begun to intensify. The Brewers and Astros have both also been linked to Tigers lefty Justin Wilson, meanwhile, as each team looks to upgrade its bullpen.