1:40pm: The Padres are out on Verlander at this point, tweets SNY’s Andy Martino. The Giants, who briefly threw their hat into the ring, have also backed out of the bidding.
11:55am: Feinsand reports that the Astros were close to a Verlander deal last night but that “things have really cooled down” today. He says the sticking point in the talks was the players going to the Mets, not the financials.
11:46am: Heyman tweets that while the Braves have been involved on Verlander, they’re not strongly in the mix at present.
11:14am: With just over six hours to go before the deadline, rumors about Justin Verlander’s future continue to swirl. The Astros, Dodgers and Orioles have all been linked to the three-time Cy Young winner. They’re not the only clubs with interest, however.
Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports (on Twitter) the Braves are also in conversations on Verlander. Meanwhile, Jon Heyman of the New York Post tweets that the Padres are involved, though it’s not clear how serious San Diego’s interest is. The Friars also like Detroit southpaw Eduardo Rodriguez, suggests Mark Feinsand of MLB.com (on Twitter).
Even with the revelations of Atlanta and San Diego being at least on the periphery of the Verlander market, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that the previously-known trio of Houston, L.A. and Baltimore appear to be leading the market. Andy Martino of SNY and Bob Nightengale of USA Today both reiterate that Houston appears the likeliest landing spot.
Neither Atlanta nor San Diego has a strict rotation need. The Braves have some uncertainty towards the back of the staff at present, relying on recent waiver claim Yonny Chirinos to start games. Yet they’re a virtual lock to secure the NL East title and a first-round bye given their 11-game lead in the standings. Any additions at this point are geared more towards the playoffs. Max Fried will soon be back to join Spencer Strider at the top of the rotation. Bryce Elder and Charlie Morton are each playoff-caliber starters, while Kyle Wright could also factor into the plans in October.
Still, the Braves’ excellent roster at least affords them the flexibility to kick the tires on luxury buys. Verlander has an accomplished postseason track record. He’s not pitching at last year’s Cy Young level, but he carries a 3.15 ERA over 16 starts this season. It seems an open question whether the Mets would actually pull the trigger on a move to Atlanta, however. New York flipped David Robertson to Miami, so they’re not categorically opposed to intra-division trades. Yet Robertson is an impending free agent during a season in which the Mets are more or less conceding their playoff chances. Dealing Verlander, under contract for next year, to a club with which New York will ostensibly try to compete for a division title in 2024, would be a much bigger move.
San Diego seemingly checks in on every big-name player available. The Padres are reportedly targeting position player depth and bullpen help, which indeed seem like bigger concerns than the starting rotation. San Diego’s starters lead the majors with a 3.63 ERA and rank seventh with a 24% strikeout rate. With Blake Snell and Seth Lugo (by likely declining a player option) seemingly a few months from free agency, there’s an argument for the Friars looking for rotation help controllable beyond this season. That said, their reported diligence on Verlander and Rodriguez seem more like the Friars’ general approach of staying involved on any star.
Verlander is owed around $14.2MM on his record salary through season’s end. He’s due $43.333MM next year, while his contract contains a $35MM vesting/player option for 2025. The Mets would have to pay down some portion of the salary. They’re clearly amenable to doing so, though reports have suggested they value Verlander more highly than they did Max Scherzer — whose contract they paid down to $22.5MM over the next two seasons to land Luisangel Acuña from Texas.