Last night, we learned that the Chicago Cubs had reached out to the Detroit Tigers about starting pitcher Justin Verlander and catcher Alex Avila’s availability.
Jon Morosi added some more detail to his original report, saying that, yes, the Tigers are willing to engage with teams in trade talks on Verlander and Avila, although those trade talks – with the Cubs or any other team – have not yet begun.
If and when those talks do begin, however, the Tigers are already signaling that they’re not planning to give Verlander away:
Teams asking about Justin Verlander; perception is DET looking for big,big,big return w/out salary offset. Owed $70m for rest of '17,'18.'19
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 4, 2017
As we discussed last night, here’s the reality of what the Tigers have in Verlander: a 34-year-old pitcher with terrible numbers all around this year, who was excellent last year, but only so-so the two years before that.
Because of the track record and the good velocity this year, he’s still a guy worth pursuing, especially given the Cubs’ needs in the rotation beyond this season. At the right price, it would be nice to have Verlander around.
But at full freight? And costing a “big, big, big return”? Get outta here, Tigers. That’s silly, and it will go absolutely nowhere.
For now, at this stage of the process, you’d expect this kind of signaling from the Tigers. If they’re serious about moving Verlander, they’ll have to get much more serious about the financial aspects of his deal – and how crippling they could be in the new CBA/luxury tax era – and about what a pitcher of Verlander’s age and current performance level is worth. Perhaps they won’t, and perhaps they don’t really want to trade a franchise face like Verlander.
Even if they are serious, the Tigers will also be limited in how much they can demand by the fact that Verlander has no-trade rights, which will limit the pool of teams with which the Tigers can realistically engage.
All together, the Tigers are not going to get a “big, big, big return” for Verlander unless they’re eating “big, big, big” portions of his contract. That’s when he would become particularly attractive to a team like the Cubs.