The arc of the Justin Verlander trade story has been a fascinating one for the past few months, demonstrating the interrelationship between buyers and sellers, between big names and softer performances, between franchise players and impending rebuilds, between in-season needs and post-season acquisitions, and so much more.
In the end, Verlander went to the Astros late last night, in the final minute before the waiver trade deadline passed, and the Cubs missed out on an opportunity to add a much-needed arm for 2018 and 2019. But to get that arm, they were going to have to pay for the value he could offer the Astros in 2017 (which is considerable) – value the Cubs didn’t necessarily need, given their six-man rotation.
Cubs GM Jed Hoyer gave a post-mortem today on what happened behind the scenes with respect to Verlander, and it confirmed a great deal of what we already believed to be true. Yes, the Cubs were involved in the talks, and yes, the Cubs were interested and open to adding Verlander, but they weren’t going to take on a big contract and also send over significant talent. Instead, Hoyer told ESPN that the Cubs would have been willing to take on the big contract if the prospect investment was minimal.
The Tigers, entering a rebuild, preferred an Astros offer that went heavier on prospects in exchange for more salary eaten (good on the Tigers, because that’s the right decision). In fact, the Astros had been in on Verlander aggressively for so long, and with such a deep prospect pool, that Hoyer suggested that’s who the Tigers wanted to deal with all along (670 the Score). Further, it sounds like Hoyer saw the Astros’ offer as very significant – one that the Cubs could have matched, but were not inclined to match.
Although he wouldn’t confirm it, Hoyer said it was “flattering” to hear reports that Verlander was holding out hope he would be traded to the Cubs.
Perhaps Verlander will be on the trade block again in the future, and will once again hold out for the Cubs.
You can hear and read more from Hoyer here on the Verlander story.
In any case, one thing that is interesting – but not necessarily unexpected – here is the confirmation that the Cubs are open to adding a $25 million+ starting pitcher in the offseason. Even staying under the luxury tax limit, the Cubs will have the space to do it, even if there will be very few options out there worthy of such an investment (in fact, you could argue that only Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish fall into that category this offseason).
My gut says that the Cubs really like Verlander, specifically, and really-really like the fact that it would have been a mere two-year deal. I’m not so sure they’re going to be willing to go to that same salary level on a five or six-year deal, not with big arbitration raises looming and a post-2018 free agent class with so much attractive, expensive talent.