One of the premier players in baseball, Astros shortstop Carlos Correa, will make his return Sunday against the Mets, per Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. Correa hasn’t played since tearing a thumb ligament on July 17, before which the 22-year-old put himself in American League MVP consideration by hitting an excellent .320/.400/.566 with 20 home runs and posting 4.1 fWAR in 375 plate appearances. While Houston was a juggernaut prior to Correa’s injury, it went backward during his absence. The team jumped out to a 62-31 start with Correa in the fold, but it went just 20-22 when he was on the shelf. Still, the Astros hold an insurmountable 12.5-game lead in the AL West and should have a realistic World Series shot now that their best player is back.
Here’s a collection of reactions to the Tigers’ headline-grabbing trade of Justin Verlander to the Astros earlier this week.
- After the Tigers and Astros agreed on a deal, Verlander initially refused to waive his no-trade rights, Jon Morosi of MLB.com writes. Verlander wasn’t opposed to joining the Astros, but first he wanted to see if he could go to the Cubs, since he and fiancée Kate Upton like the city of Chicago. (Verlander was also interested in the Dodgers, although they weren’t actively involved in talks.) When it turned out the Tigers felt the Cubs weren’t offering enough value in a potential deal, Verlander signed off on the trade that would send him to the Astros.
- Bob Nightengale of USA Today has further details on discussions between Verlander and the Tigers that resulted in Verlander’s departure from Detroit. The Tigers ultimately told Verlander it would be “the Astros or nobody,” as Nightengale describes it. Verlander, who had some concerns about Houston as it dealt with Hurricane Harvey, spoke to Astros owner Jim Crane. “I told him, ’This town is going to be fine. It’s going to take time. You will be received great here. We’ve got a good team, a good manager, a good front office. There won’t be any problems here,'” says Crane.
- The Tigers’ decision to trade Verlander and Justin Upton was an “obvious rebuild move,” says Tigers GM Al Avila (via MLB.com’s Jason Beck). “We’re going to have a rough month of September, and next year may not be all that pretty, either,” says Avila. “But at some point in the near future, we expect this to turn around, that some of these prospects will be coming up and making a difference. And within a reasonable time then, we should be ready to go.”
- The trade shows the Astros will treat their coming playoff run as a “crusade” for their beleaguered city, Ken Rosenthal writes for the Athletic. The team already has a franchise-record payroll of around $130MM this season, and that figure could go higher next year. But the Astros are pushing to make it to the World Series, and Rosenthal writes that while a baseball trade hardly makes up for what’s currently a disastrous situation in Houston, it could perhaps be a “ray of sunshine” in an extremely dark time.
- Franklin Perez now ranks as the Tigers’ second-best prospect behind fellow righty Matt Manning, FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen opines in a review of the prospects in the swap. Longenhagen describes Perez as a polished teenager who has the potential to dominate, although he’ll have to increase his stamina to carry a big-league starter’s workload. He calls Daz Cameron a “fringe-to-average hitter with fringe game power” and a borderline future big-league starting outfielder.
11:05am: USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that Verlander will retain full no-trade protection now as a member of the Astros (Twitter links). Additionally, the Astros have agreed to waive his vesting option for the 2020 season. Verlander would’ve needed a top five finish in the 2019 Cy Young voting to see that $22MM option vest, though it stands to reason that if he were to finish in the top five that season, he’d be able to earn more on the open market in free agency.
Nightengale also confirms that Houston will receive a PTBNL in the deal as opposed to further cash considerations. (Houston will still receive the $16MM from the Tigers to help pay down some of Verlander’s salary.)
12:30am: In a stunning reversal, after a deal seemingly collapsed, the Tigers have officially sent long-time ace Justin Verlander to the Astros. Prospects Franklin Perez, Daz Cameron, and Jake Rogers will go to Detroit in the deal. Houston is also slated to receive $16MM from Detroit to cover a portion of Verlander’s remaining salary, along with a player to be named later or cash considerations.
The August trade period has never been so loaded with blockbusters. This year, the Tigers pulled off not one but two major swaps on August 31st — the last day for teams to deal players who’d be eligible to appear in the postseason with their new organizations. After shipping outfielder Justin Upton to the Angels earlier today, Detroit GM Al Avila hammered out a yet-more-significant trade by parting with one of the franchise’s icons tonight.
While dealing Upton came with some complications, the path to the Verlander trade was riddled with roadblocks. Starts and stops in talks over recent months left immense uncertainty as to his future. His full no-trade rights loomed as a barrier, while the $56MM left on his contract after this season (for the 2018 and 2019 campaigns) seemed steep. Indeed, he cleared revocable waivers, with no clubs putting in a claim to take over his entire deal.
The chatter picked up, then sputtered, approaching the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline, then ebbed and flowed in August after Verlander had cleared revocable trade waivers. Throughout it all, Verlander turned in gem after gem, increasing his appeal as a trade target all the while.
Ultimately, Houston couldn’t pass on the chance to add the hard-throwing workhorse, parting with three talented young players to get him. The Tigers couldn’t miss on this opportunity to deal him at a relative high point, especially after Verlander struggled early in the 2017 campaign. And though Verlander waited until the last minute to approve the trade — MLB Network’s Jon Morosi tweets that he held out for a chance to land with the Cubs — he ultimately decided to depart a franchise that is obviously launching a significant rebuilding process for one that owns the best record in the American League.
The dealmaking took place even as the Astros prepare to return to their home city for the first time since Hurricane Harvey pummeled the Texas cost. As the city and its brave citizens continue to battle flood waters, the Astros will play a dramatic doubleheader tomorrow while preparing to welcome one of the most accomplished pitchers of the past 40 years.
It will be tempting for some Astros fans to see Verlander as something of a savior. He is one of the game’s highest-profile players — due not only to his excellence, but also his relationship with supermodel Kate Upton — and the team has struggled of late even as it comfortably paces the AL West.
But Verlander is already 34 years of age and has quite a lot of mileage on his arm — durable though it may be — after 380 regular season MLB outings. While he owns a 3.49 ERA through more than 2,500 innings on the Major League hill, it’s fair to wonder when he’ll slow down. Indeed, those concerns rose to the fore as Verlander labored to a 4.96 ERA through his first 17 starts this season.
Of late, though, Verlander has been outstanding. Since a dud to open the month of July, Verlander has pitched to a 2.31 ERA with 84 strikeouts against 20 walks over 74 innings. He’s throwing as hard as ever and could still crack 200 innings for the tenth time in the past 11 seasons.
Clearly, Verlander represents a significant upgrade for an Astros staff that has had its ups and downs this year even as the team runs away with a division crown. While Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr. are big talents, both have had injury problems; the latter has also had some hiccups of late and is currently on the DL. Other hurlers — including Charlie Morton, Brad Peacock, and Mike Fiers — have certainly had their moments in 2017, but there was room for the Astros to add a postseason starter to the mix.
The addition is especially notable given that the ’Stros missed on Zach Britton and another as-yet-unknown pitcher at the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. Verlander will bump some other arms into the bullpen, especially during the postseason, helping to deepen the overall staff while also giving the team a pitcher that is no stranger to working late into playoff games. Of particular note for an Astros team that has only burst into competitiveness in recent seasons, Verlander a 3.39 ERA through 98 1/3 innings in 16 postseason contests == the most recent of which came in 2014.
Unsurprisingly, the addition comes at a cost. While Verlander’s salary held down his value, Detroit still managed to secure some high-end talent in this deal, all while clearing the bulk of Verlander’s contract from the books. In combination with the Upton trade, the Tigers have saved something on the order of $136MM in salary commitments. (That estimate includes the remainder of those players’ salaries for the current season, less the money the team has agreed to retain in both deals. It also assumes Upton would not opt out after the current season, which remains to be seen.)
While Cameron is perhaps the best-known youngster moving in this deal, Perez is undoubtedly the headliner. The 19-year-old righty entered the year on top-100 prospect charts, with the potential of developing a quality four-pitch arsenal, and has delivered on the hype. Through 86 1/3 innings at the High-A and Double-A levels, Perez carries a 3.02 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9.
Cameron was one of the highest-rated players in the 2015 draft, and Houston structured its strategy that day around landing him with a big bonus at pick No. 37. The son of long-time major leaguer Mike Cameron, the 20-year-old has bounced back from a tough 2016 campaign. Over 506 plate appearances this year at A ball, he’s slashing .271/.347/.567 with 14 home runs and 32 stolen bases. Notably, too, he has drastically pared back the strikeouts that plagued him last year, carrying a 21.1% rate thus far in 2017.
Detroit also lands a potential future catcher in Rogers, who is a highly regarded defensive backstop that has shown some hitting skills as well. While he’s already 22 years of age, the 2016 third-rounder from Tulane succeeded at the plate at both the Class A and High-A levels this year. Over 479 total plate appearances, he’s slashing .265/.353/.476 with 18 long balls, and he’s also recorded 52 walks against 100 strikeouts.
The dramatic tale of this trade isn’t yet over. Verlander promises to be one of the most closely watched players in this year’s postseason and will be expected to anchor the staff over the final two years of his deal. And the Tigers will hope that the three players acquired will help form the team’s next core of stars — though it will likely be some time before any test their merit at the game’s highest level.
Chris McCosky of the Detroit News covered the late-breaking negotiations (links to Twitter). Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press first reported (via Twitter) that a deal was done. Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter) reported the return, which McCosky had previously noted, while Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter) and Bob Nightengale of USA Today (Twitter link) had the financial elements.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
10:58pm: As covered in detail here, the sides managed to pull off a last-minute blockbuster.
10:55pm: The Astros were apparently unable to swing a last-minute deal to land Tigers ace Justin Verlander, though the reasons why remain unclear. Detroit News journalist Chris McCosky said a deal was mostly in place with the Astros, then said that Verlander had nixed the proposed arrangement, and finally concluded it wasn’t clear if Houston had backed out (links to Twitter). Meanwhile, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that it’s not yet clear what happened, but that the “Tigers are not blaming” the veteran right-handed hurler.
For Houston, this evidently represents the latest thwarted effort to add an impact arm. The club was reportedly close to landing Zach Britton and perhaps another pitcher at the non-revocable waiver deadline, but both deals fell through. Now, it seems, the team has missed on Verlander, who previously cleared revocable waivers but still maintained his full no-trade protection.
Talks between the teams were long been held up by an evident failure to agree on a return, but evidently gathered steam late today. As of midnight EST tonight, clubs can no longer add players from outside the organization and then utilize such players on their postseason roster.
The ’Stros are rich in prospects, but had remained hesitant to part with their best young talent while also taking on a significant piece of the $56MM still guaranteed to Verlander over the next two seasons. Meanwhile, the Tigers were said to be holding out for real talent in parting with one of their franchise’s best all-time players.
10:47pm: The Tigers are “still busily working [the] phones,” tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today, with Verlander’s status as yet uncertain.
10:27pm: There are a variety of reports emerging late that paint a somewhat confusing picture. Detroit News journalist Chris McCosky said a deal was close with the Astros, only to report shortly thereafter that Verlander had nixed the proposed arrangement (links to Twitter). Now, McCosky says it’s not clear if Verlander exercised his no-trade clause or if the Astros backed out. Jon Morosi of MLB Network (via Twitter) and Mark Berman of FOX 26 (via Twitter) had also suggested that a deal was getting closer.
9:05pm: The Cubs still aren’t willing to meet the Tigers’ asking price, per David Kaplan of CSN Chicago (via Twitter). Chicago is believed to be the only team willing to take on most or all of Verlander’s salary, per ESPNChicago.com’s Jesse Rogers (Twitter link), though indications remain that a deal is not likely at this late stage.
8:16pm: One source tells ESPN Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link) that talks involving Verlander are believed to be “dead” with less than three hours to go before the deadline to add players with eligibility for postseason rosters.
6:24pm: The Cubs and Astros — two teams with prior reported interest — spoke with Detroit today, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports (via Twitter). Both learned that the Tigers’ asking price on Verlander has not changed. Whether or not either of those two hypothetical suitors remains engaged on Verlander is not clear.
2:29pm: While Detroit is indeed asking around about Verlander trades, FanRag’s Jon Heyman tweets that a trade of Verlander remains “possible but not probable.” As of yesterday, Tigers brass was reportedly not optimistic about reaching a deal for Verlander.
1:49pm: The Tigers are in “active discussions” on the possibility of a Justin Verlander trade in advance of tonight’s deadline for postseason roster eligibility, reports Jon Morosi of MLB.com (Twitter links). Per Morosi, each of Verlander, Shane Greene and Alex Wilson is in play as the Tigers are “making clear” to other clubs that they are embarking on a rebuild.
The inclusion of Greene and Wilson is surprising, if for no other reason than it suggests that both affordable relievers have perhaps cleared revocable waivers. Morosi doesn’t explicitly state that, but both would need to have cleared in order to be discussed in trades or, at the very least, have been claimed off revocable waivers in the past day or so (which would leave Detroit able to negotiate with only the claiming team). The Astros have remained in contact with the Tigers regarding Verlander over the past 48 hours, Morosi further adds.
Detroit is already on the verge of unloading one massive contract, as the Tigers have reportedly agreed to trade Justin Upton to the Angels. Certainly, the Tigers will be looking for more than just salary relief in exchange for Verlander, who has been dominant over the past couple of months after a slow start to the season, however. Verlander is owed $56MM from 2018-19.
The Astros announced that they have designated right-hander Dayan Diaz for assignment in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for newly claimed outfielder Cameron Maybin, whose acquisition has now been announced by the team as well.
The 28-year-old Diaz made his Major League debut with the Reds last season but was cut loose at season’s end, at which point he signed a minor league deal with the Astros. In a combined 19 2/3 MLB innings, Diaz has an unsightly 9.15 ERA. While he’s picked up an impressive 23 strikeouts in that short time and averaged 94 mph on his fastball, he’s also walked 11 batters and thrown four wild pitches.
In 161 career innings at the Triple-A level, Diaz has a 2.96 earned run average with 8.2 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9.
2:04pm: The Astros actually claimed Maybin off revocable waivers, reports Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). The Angels are simply letting go of the remainder of his $9MM salary — about $1.5MM — which Houston will absorb in the trade. There aren’t any other players changing hands.
1:37pm: The Astros have agreed to acquire outfielder Cameron Maybin from the Angels, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (on Twitter). The trade of Maybin comes in conjunction with the Halos’ reported blockbuster acquisition of Justin Upton from the Tigers.
Maybin will bring extra outfield depth to the Astros, though there’s no readily open everyday spot for him in an outfield currently comprised of Derek Fisher, George Springer and Josh Reddick. But, he’ll bring plenty of speed to the Astros’ roster as rosters are set to expand, giving the team a valuable pinch-running option as well as a potential right-handed complement to either Reddick or Fisher. It’s also worth noting that after a solid start to his big league career, Fisher has fallen into a prolonged slump, so Maybin will give the team another option in the outfield should Fisher continue to look overmatched.
Since coming over from the Tigers over the offseason, the 30-year-old has turned in 387 plate appearances of .235/.333/.351 hitting with six home runs and an AL-leading 29 stolen bases. While the overall batting output has been below the league average, Maybin has posted a boost in his walk rate (to 12.4%), is one of the games best baserunners, and has graded as an average or better fielder in left and center.
The trade that would have sent Zach Britton from the Orioles to the Astros included third baseman Colin Moran, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, but medical issues ultimately sank the deal. Moran was already on the disabled list after having suffered a concussion and a facial fracture when he fouled a ball off his face in mid-July, per Heyman, but there were also medical issues with one of the prospects that would have gone to Baltimore. That issue was found as the O’s sifted through medical paperwork, and though Houston tried to resurrect the deal in the final hours leading up to the non-waiver deadline, the two sides were ultimately unable to find a common ground. None of Kyle Tucker, Derek Fisher, Francis Martes, Forrest Whitley or Yordan Alvarez were offered in either iteration of the deal, he adds.
- Prior to trading Yu Darvish to the Dodgers, the Rangers “made clear” that they were “completely willing” to trade Darvish to the Astros. The Rangers, according to Heyman, asked for top-tier prospects from their division rivals, however, before ultimately landing on a package comprised largely of high-ceiling players in A-ball. Houston offered currently suspended (PEDs) top prospect David Paulino in a deal, and the two sides apparently never got especially close to reaching an agreement.
With the August trade period soon coming to a close, there has been a surge of interest in Tigers righty Justin Verlander, according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network (via Twitter). Verlander is one of many veteran players to have cleared revocable waivers, though he also enjoys full no-trade protection.
Speculation has long focused on the Astros as a viable landing spot. While there have been indications that the sides have engaged in talks, though, none seem to have occurred of late — so far as is publicly known.
Interestingly, though, Morosi says another organization “has emerged as [a] possible suitor.” The new team with interest isn’t yet known, but surely it must be an organization with reasonable present expectations of pushing for a postseason berth.
That is an intriguing development, to be sure, but doesn’t necessarily suggest Verlander is likely to be on the move. Jon Heyman of Fan Rag suggested yesterday that the Tigers haven’t recently engaged in earnest with other organizations. Plus, there’s the matter of Verlander’s full no-trade protection. Though he has indicated he would at least strongly consider a move to a non-contender, he could also seek some compensation.
Most importantly, perhaps, Detroit has long been said to desire a fairly significant prospect return that arguably outstrips the value of the star righty’s contract. Verlander is owed $56MM for the following two seasons, which is a fairly hefty rate for a 34-year-old pitcher. He got off to a slow start this year, too, though he has posted a strong 3.34 ERA with 109 strikeouts and 37 walks over his last 105 innings (17 starts).
In light of the damage wrought by Tropical Storm Harvey, the Astros have released a statement about their plans for the coming week. The team, after playing the Angels in California this weekend, is currently scheduled to host the Rangers in Houston on Tuesday. However, the team now plans to fly to Dallas, and will provide an update on their schedule on Monday. It seems reasonable to speculate that the upcoming series will be moved to Arlington. “At this point, our focus is on the safety of our fans, our players and their families and our front office staff and their families,” says Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan. “As we continue to monitor the conditions, we have been in communication with Major League Baseball and the Texas Rangers and will provide an update on Monday.” Obviously, these potential changes to the baseball calendar pale in importance to the continued dangers Harvey poses, and we at MLBTR send our thoughts to any readers currently dealing with the devastation of the storm.