Few potential trade candidates are as notable as Justin Verlander. There are myriad complications that could stand in the way of a deal, but there’s been speculation over the past couple days about the chance of Verlander being on the move.
Mark Feinsand of MLB.com suggested Thursday night there was some industry sentiment the Mets would look to move him. Feinsand listed the Astros and Rangers as potential fits. Will Sammon and Tim Britton of the Athletic also indicated that the two Texas-based franchises had expressed some interest, writing that the Mets at least appear willing to genuinely consider offers on Verlander and Max Scherzer.
Still, it remains to be seen how aggressively other teams would pursue either player. Sammon and Britton characterize Texas’ interest in Verlander mostly as due diligence as they evaluate all their rotation possibilities. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News wrote yesterday that Texas would be open to surpassing the competitive balance tax threshold in a Verlander trade. However, he similarly indicated the Rangers are checking in on virtually every pitcher on the market, with nothing to suggest Verlander talks have gotten particularly advanced. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that Texas has also inquired on reliever Brooks Raley and corner outfielder Tommy Pham.
Texas has a luxury tax number around $224MM, as calculated by Roster Resource. They’re $9MM shy of the $233MM base threshold. Verlander is due around $15.4MM through season’s end, so an acquisition would push Texas past that marker unless the Mets paid down a significant chunk of the salary.
New York might be willing to do so. They paid down all of Eduardo Escobar’s deal and are reportedly willing to send cash in other trades, although they didn’t include any money in the David Robertson swap with Miami. There’s a ways to go to get to that point, though. New York would have to weigh the possible return against subtracting a key player who’s under contract for 2024, when the Mets surely envision a return to competitiveness.
That’s even before considering the players’ ability to block any deal. Both Verlander and Scherzer have complete no-trade rights. Understandably, neither has gone on record about whether they’d waive that provision. Verlander said a few days ago the Mets had not approached him about that possibility. Scherzer told the New York beat last night that he’d likely speak with the front office about the franchise’s direction over the next few days. Sherman indicates the Mets would only gauge the pitchers’ willingness to waive the no-trade clauses if they first find a potentially workable trade package.
Texas pursued Verlander as a free agent last winter. He reportedly wasn’t keen on joining the Rangers at the time, although that’s seemingly because he questioned how quickly they’d be competitive. That’s no longer in doubt with the Rangers topping the AL West by two games and motivated deadline buyers.
There’s plenty of familiarity between Verlander and the Astros, of course. Houston has been on the hunt for a starting pitcher for a few weeks. General manager Dana Brown downplayed the rotation need a bit after acquiring reliever Kendall Graveman yesterday, however. Brown indicated that while Houston was still open to adding a starter, the rotation is “not as high a priority as the bullpen was,” in part because of the loftier asking price teams are demanding to relinquish starting pitching (link via Chandler Rome of the Athletic).