Experts weigh in on JV trade

Here’s a national roundup of baseball experts’ opinions on the Tigers trading Justin Verlander to the Houston Astros late Thursday night:


No team, no trade, not even a World Series triumph can come close to compensating for the devastation in Houston, a city ravaged by one of the worst natural disasters in American history. But if you live in Astros Country, and you’re waking up this morning to the news that your team just acquired ace right-hander Justin Verlander, perhaps you can at least allow yourself a smile.

In a wild turn of events before the midnight EST deadline for setting postseason rosters, Verlander was an Astro, then he wasn’t, then he was — finally, actually, officially. Just like that, the Astros again look like favorites to win the American League. And rest assured, they will treat the postseason as a crusade for their city, just as the Red Sox did after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

It’s all coming together for the Astros, who also acquired outfielder Cameron Maybin on a waiver claim Thursday. Verlander, who has a 2.31 ERA in his last 11 starts, will join a rotation that includes left-hander Dallas Keuchel and righty Collin McHugh, both of whom have pitched mostly well since coming off the disabled list, plus righty Charlie Morton and righty Lance McCullers, who is set to come off the DL on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Shortstop Carlos Correa might return from left-thumb surgery next weekend. Will Harris recently rejoined the bullpen, Michael Feliz might be back soon, and the addition of Verlander will enable the Astros to also use righty Brad Peacock in relief. And, lest anyone forget, the intangible: General Manager Jeff Luhnow provided the clubhouse with the jolt that he failed to deliver at the non-waiver deadline, in part because a trade for Orioles closer Zach Britton collapsed due to medical concerns the O’s had with at least one of the Astros’ prospects.

More: In late-night stunner, Tigers trade Justin Verlander


This was not easy for Houston, an organization built on patience and player development. Every winning team arrives at that juncture where principle meets urgency, and Aug. 31, 2017, after leveraging that principle into what remains the best record in the AL, urgency chalked up a victory.

The possibility of frittering away home-field advantage and having to face a five-game series against Boston or Cleveland — that is, against Chris Sale or Corey Kluber twice — makes holding onto that top spot in the league over the last 29 games entirely imperative. Since returning from the disabled list, the Astros’ ace, Dallas Keuchel, has been inconsistent. They don’t know what they’re getting out of Lance McCullers Jr. when he returns from the DL soon. And though the Astros have the AL West well locked up and understand the postseason is an unpredictable witch, ready to smite even those who don’t deserve it, the Charlie Morton-Brad Peacock-Collin McHugh rotation grab bag gave Houston as much agita as it did comfort.

Hovering over the discussions — over everything — was the plight of Houston after Hurricane Harvey. The Astros return to Minute Maid Park on Saturday and hope to bring the slightest semblance of normalcy to an area that won’t see it for weeks, months, years. It was not the impetus behind acquiring Justin Verlander, like the Astros could help heal Houston. But it came up in conversation. Plenty. As in: How cool would this be?

More: Verlander trade made sense to all parties involved


The jumbled American League playoff picture got some definition in one stunning day. Who knew the second trade deadline could have such an impact?

Normally the ugly sister of the much-hyped non-waiver trade deadline of a month earlier, Thursday’s final day for transactions involving players eligible for the postseason produced high drama and the relocation of three players with a combined 13 All-Star Game invites.

The upshot: The balance of power has now settled in the American League West, with the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Angels (Justin Upton) pulling off blockbuster deals to fortify themselves.

The Astros already boasted the league’s top record and a comfortable cushion that practically guarantees them the division crown, but they have been drifting aimlessly for the last six weeks, going 18-22 since losing star shortstop Carlos Correa to a thumb injury.

Lately, their focus has naturally been diverted to the tragedy unfolding in their home city as it deals with the ravages of Hurricane Harvey, which forced the club to relocate to Florida for a three-game series.

Now, awaiting the Astros when they make a delayed return to Minute Maid Park on Saturday will be former MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander, acquired at the last second Thursday in a startling swap with the Detroit Tigers.


The Astros needed Justin Verlander. Lance McCullers Jr. is still on the disabled list with back soreness and Dallas Keuchel has a 5.35 ERA in seven starts since returning from his own DL stint. The rotation also has struggled in the second half with a 4.79 ERA. Compare the first half to the second half:

ERA: First in American League to eighth

Batting average: First to fifth

OPS allowed: First to fifth

Verlander, meanwhile, after a sluggish start, has a 3.24 ERA since May 30 and a 2.41 ERA in the second half. Since the All-Star break, he ranks third in the AL in ERA, second in WHIP, second in batting average, fourth in OPS allowed and fifth in K’s per nine. Maybe he’s not vintage Cy Young Verlander, but he has been pretty close to that of late.


In return for trading their franchise pitcher, the Tigers received the No. 3 (Franklin Perez), No. 9 (Daz Cameron), and No. 11 (Jake Rogers) prospects in Houston’s farm system, per The 19-year-old Perez is one of the fastest rising pitching prospects in baseball. He has a 3.08 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 86.1 innings split between Single-A and Double-A this year.

Cameron, 20, is the son of longtime big leaguer Mike Cameron and an outfielder like his father. He is hitting a robust .271/.349/.466 with 14 home runs and 32 steals in 120 Single-A games this season.

The 22-year-old Rogers is an elite defensive catcher who is hitting .263/.352/.472 at two different Single-A levels in 2017.

Make no mistake, the Tigers added three high-end prospects in this trade.


The Astros, who’ve taken hits for being cautious in trades and kept their biggest prospect off-limits in all other deals, made the bold move their critics figured they’d never make, landing exactly the kind of big-time pitcher they needed for a team that’s talented but whose best starting pitchers haven’t proved their durability yet. Their offense is a bear, and now they line up a rotation, with Verlander at the top, and assuming they remain healthy, talented 20-somethings Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers. That’s a rotation to be reckoned with.

Verlander has a 3.82 ERA and 176 strikeouts in 28 starts this season — but more importantly to the Astros, he has a 1.76 ERA in his last eight postseason starts.

The Tigers ended up with a nice haul to start their rebuild, and for that they owe Verlander, who regained his Cy Young form in August, and also the Astros, who probably came to understand they just didn’t have the pitching depth to carry them through October, as currently constituted.


Forget the sentimentality that will help shape analysis of the Justin Verlander trade. Verlander just made a good business decision.

It was his call to approve the Tigers’ deal with the Astros just before midnight Thursday. Reports said he was holding out for a trade to the Cubs, his first choice, only to settle on Houston at the last minute.

Looking at the big picture, he had to know that two (or three) years and a month-plus in Chicago or Houston would set him up better for one last payday after his current deal ends in 2019 or 2020.


It will be hard to challenge the Indians for strongest rotation in the league, but the acquisition immediately vaults the Astros past the Red Sox for second best. Justin Verlander has shown signs of weakness over the last four years, but he has stabilized in the second half each of the last two years. He had a 2.36 ERA in August this year.

He is durable and has extensive postseason experience — he made the playoffs five times with the Tigers, including two World Series — and will likely slot in behind left-hander Dallas Keuchel to form one of the most formidable pairs in October. Houston already has the best offense in the game; now it can also lighten the load on a taxed bullpen and fragile back of the rotation.

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