Cubs May Be More Interested in Two Other Tigers Pitchers, Less So With Justin Verlander

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Cubs May Be More Interested in Two Other Tigers Pitchers, Less So With Justin Verlander

Chicago Cubs

In a recent report at Gammons Daily, Peter Gammons writes that the Chicago Cubs “have called almost every team,” in baseball to see who might be available this deadline, and yes, that includes Justin Verlander’s team, the Detroit Tigers.

But Michael, we already knew the Cubs had interest in Verlander, you told us multiple times, including, most recently, on July 6! Also, you’re incredibly good looking, have we told you that lately?

First of all, thank you. I recently switched to a new conditioner, and it’s been doing wonders for my scalp. Second of all, yes, we have talked about the Cubs/Verlander smoke before, but there’s a new wrinkle this time around.

Although Gammons writes that the Tigers were one of many teams upon which the Cubs have called this summer, he adds, “but they made it clear they had no interest in Justin Verlander.” According to Gammons, one Cubs official implied that nobody will pay Verlander what he’s owed over the remaining life of his contract, even if he was performing better than he has been this season. Well, then.

In a separate article at the Detroit Free Press, Anthony Fenech echoes this sentiment, albeit with some slightly different verbiage.

He suggests that there are only a few realistic suitors for Verlander, of which the Cubs are certainly included, but that their interest at this point is “more smoke than fire.” He goes on to suggest that instead, the Cubs strongly prefer to add a younger, team-controlled starter. Which, sure.

But before we close this door entirely, let’s clear some things up. Every single summer (and winter, for that matter), there’ll be rumors connecting Player X to Team Y. To one extent or another, those rumors will appear to be true until – and this happens in almost every single case – reports trickle out that Team Y actually has no interest in Player X at all! Mileage on just how accurate those reports are – and how much are about various stages of negotiation and leverage-grabbing – may vary.

Normally, then, I’d attribute the “Cubs are NOT interested in Verlander” reports to a ploy for leverage. But in this case, they may be real. Back in that original Gammons Daily report, Gammons writes that although the Cubs have told the Tigers that they aren’t into Verlander, they did ask about starters Michael Fulmer and/or Daniel Norris. Ah-ha!

Michael Fulmer is the Tigers’ 24-year-old All-Star starting pitcher, and the reigning 2016 AL Rookie of the Year. In his first season (2016), Fulmer collected 3.0 WAR and posted a 3.06 ERA through 26 starts. He even earned down-the-ballot Cy Young votes, finishing 10th in the AL. This season, his ERA may be slightly higher (3.19), but his peripherals are more encouraging (3.26 FIP) and he’s already earned more WAR than he did in all of 2016. In terms of young, talented, cost-controlled starting pitchers, it doesn’t get much better than Fulmer.

(Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

Query why the Tigers would even consider moving Fulmer, but if the Cubs were willing to part with a similarly-talented and controlled position player, then maybe you’d have something brewing.

Gammons indicates the Cubs also asked about former top prospect and current Tigers’ starter, Daniel Norris. You might remember Norris, 24, as one of the best pitching prospects in baseball from 2012-2014, and as part of the package that sent David Price to the Blue Jays back in 2015. His pedigree is plenty high, he’s young, cost-controlled, and he’s only just now breaking into the league on a consistent basis.

Of course, you probably realized what I left out: his performance.

Norris has a 5.29 ERA this season, but an FIP that’s almost a full run better. Unfortunately, he’s allowed his walk rate to balloon up to 10.0% this season, which hurts even more now that his strikeout rate has settled around the 20% mark. Even still, Norris has plenty of promise, and cheap team control through the 2021 season.

As you can imagine, both pitchers would cost an arm and a leg (and probably another leg, in Fulmer’s case) to acquire, but both could be theoretically available and very attractive to a team like the Cubs. I’m purposefully holding back on any trade-package speculation, because they are literally almost never right. But since you’re probably going to speculate in the comments anyway, remember the July Rule-of-Thumb: if you’re comfortable with the trade, it’s not enough.

We’ll have to wait and see if this goes anywhere, but remember: a trade for a cost-controlled starter this July is as much about this season as the next five. Where the Cubs are in the standings right now is not at all the sole consideration. This could be a fun month.


And remember, if you want Brett to blog like crazy at the deadline (you definitely want this), all you have to do is donate to Make-A-Wish … it’s a win-win!

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami