Aug. 7: USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets that recent talks between the Astros and Tigers weren’t productive. The Tigers are saying that they expect Verlander to remain with the team into the winter, Nightengale adds.
Aug. 6: The Tigers and Astros were in touch about a potential Justin Verlander trade this month, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi tweets. It isn’t clear if these talks could be building towards a possible trade of the former Cy Young Award winner, or if the two clubs were just checking back in with each other out of due diligence, since Detroit and Houston also discussed Verlander prior to the trade deadline. Those talks involved Verlander and Justin Wilson both going to the Astros, though that scenario is no longer in play now that Wilson had been traded to the Cubs.
Verlander has cleared revocable waivers, so the Tigers are free to discuss him in trade talks even now that the July 31 deadline has passed. Of course, all of the same obstacles that likely prevented a Verlander trade from being consummated are still in place — Verlander’s age (34), large contract (around $63.25MM through the 2019 season), the Tigers’ reported willingness to pay relatively little of that remaining salary, his no-trade clause, and the fact that Verlander has been only a solid pitcher this season rather than the rotation-topping ace he has been in 2016 and past seasons.
It’s worth noting that Verlander has been pitching better as of late, posting a 2.31 ERA over his last six starts (including six shutout innings of the Astros themselves on July 31). Houston also left the deadline trade market relatively empty-handed, only acquiring Francisco Liriano from the Blue Jays as lefty bullpen relief after missing out on Zach Britton.
The Astros were also linked to several starting pitchers, and they continue to have a need for rotation help now that Lance McCullers is on the 10-day DL with back problems. Dallas Keuchel and a healthy McCullers sit firmly atop Houston’s rotation, with Collin McHugh, Mike Fiers, Brad Peacock and Charlie Morton all having delivered some good results when given the ball. Still, Verlander would be a much more proven addition to the Astros’ top three come the postseason, and he could be a difference-maker if he is able to recapture his old form.