Whenever a former Cy Young Award winner is on the trade market, every contending team has to have at least a modicum of interest. Thus, there have already been published reports about clubs hoping to land Justin Verlander to make a deal with the Tigers.
Even though it has been six years since he won not only the Cy Young Award but also earned the distinction of being the American League’s Most Valuable Player, Verlander still has much upside. He is an established ace who, in spite of some mediocre seasons since 2011, went 16-9 last year while finishing as the runner up in the Cy Young voting.
Still, many contenders will pass on an opportunity to pursue Verlander for a variety of reasons. First of all he is 34 years old, an age when most players are considered well past their prime.
Plus Verlander won only five games in 2015, a number that might make last year’s comeback appear to be his swan song. That paltry win total averages out to fewer than one per month, a scary stat for contending clubs who would be counting on him for five wins for the stretch run and the post season.
Then there is Verlaner’s contract, which would certainly prevent small market clubs from pursuing him. He has a full no trade clause, which is a huge obstacle for any deal.
It might be even less surmountable than the monetary aspect of his contract, which does not expire until the 2020 season. Verlander will make $28 million the next two years, a salary that most contenders cannot afford.
Among those contenders who can afford to take the financial risk are Los Angeles and Chicago, two large market teams who are seeking to upgrade their starting rotations. Of the two, the Cubs would be the more needy.
After winning the World Series last year and expecting to repeat this season, Chicago has struggled since Opening Day. They have remained under .500 for the first three months, holding first place in the N.L. Central for a mere few days. In order to turn things around, the North Side club needs to make a huge splash at the trade deadline.
The key attraction for Chicago is 28, the number that sits in front of the million in Verlander’s contract. While that amount is certainly less than ideal, the Cubs should pay attention to the other 28 in his stat sheet.
He is 28-5 against the National League, with a mere 3.03 earned run average. Opponents from the Senior Circuit are hitting just .223 against him in forty career starts.
More importantly, Verlander is 10-0 against the five teams who are currently in line to reach the postseason, Washington, Los Angeles, Arizona, Milwaukee and Colorado. His dominance against the N.L. would make him a great acquisition for the Cubs, who would need to persuade Verlander to waive his no trade clause for any deal to go through.