To be quite clear up front, we don’t yet know much in the way of particulars on Jon Lester’s lat injury. He was removed from yesterday’s struggling effort with a “tight left lat,” and he was to be examined further after the game. The results should come today, and will likely be accompanied by a disabled list move. How long Lester will actually be out is still unknown.
But against that backdrop, it is only reasonable to revisit rumors that have persisted since long before the Lester injury, and, in fact, long before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Tigers righty Justin Verlander cleared waivers this month, and is thus freely tradable. Although talks have reportedly persisted with the Astros, no such talks – this month – have been reported involving the Cubs.
Jeff Passan reports that is still the case, but openly wonders if the Lester injury could get the Cubs back to the table. With Verlander already an interesting trade target for the Cubs in the offseason, adding him now would have the benefit of covering if there is an extended Lester absence. The Cubs and the Astros, however, have been biding their time waiting first to see what direction the Tigers decide to go in before more seriously considering a trade, according to Passan. Whether the Lester injury changes that stance remains to be seen. The deadline to add a player in order for that player to be eligible for the postseason is August 31.
To date, Passan says the asking price on Verlander has been silly, noting one team that said the Tigers asked a trade partner to take on Jordan Zimmermann’s remaining deal (three years and $74 million) in order to get Verlander. That, of course, is ridiculous given that Verlander has his own over-market deal right now ($28 million per year for the next two years). There were other reports at the time of the trade deadline that had the Tigers seeking Javy Baez or Ian Happ from the Cubs in a Verlander deal, which does not seem to make for a trade fit (the Cubs are especially not going to trade Baez right now, full stop).
The Tigers will have to decide they are more committed to moving Verlander than that if they’re going to get something done.
Verlander, 34, had a rough start to his 2017 season after a near Cy Young win in 2016, but he’s followed that start with a stretch of ball that features a 2.55 ERA (3.87 FIP) since July 8.
This remains a situation worth monitoring, especially within the context of the Lester injury. Hopefully, it is not serious, and the Cubs are not up against the wall in deciding whether to pull the trigger on such a significant addition at this time. Then, they can revisit talks with the Tigers in the offseason, to see if they can get Verlander’s deal (two years and $56 million remaining after this season, plus a $22 million vesting option for 2020) down to a reasonable level.
Read Passan’s piece for much more on the Tigers’ plans, and how Verlander could fit with the Cubs.