Houston Astros

Heyman | Astros get Justin Verlander just in the nick of time

17 September 2016: Detroit Tigers Starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) [4956] delivers a pitch to the plate during the first inning of the Major League Baseball game between the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)
Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire

Detroit Tigers legend Justin Verlander was traded to the Houston Astros in a blockbuster deal at a wild waiver trade deadline, right at 11:59 p.m. ET — in other words, just in the nick of time.

The former MVP Verlander, who has full no-trade powers, apparently approved the deal just before the deadline hit, giving the Astros the ace they need to solidify their standing as the American League favorite. Houston finally got a little bit of good news in a tragically bad week there caused Hurricane Harvey.

This trade truly was Minute Made, as it occurred just before the clock struck midnight in Detroit, and tremendously helped improve the future of a Tigers franchise that got a huge start on the process by trading Justin Upton to the Los Angeles Angels earlier in the day, and then the iconic Verlander, a former Cy Young winner, six-time All-Star, and MVP.

While the Upton deal was seemingly made to ensure that he wouldn’t shirk the opt-out and cost them $90 million over the next four years while they begin their rebuilding process, Verlander brought back three nice prospects — big-time pitcher Franklin Perez, talented outfielder Daz Cameron (the son of Mike) and catcher Jake Rogers. The trio were ranked third, ninth and 11th, respectively, in the Astros’ farm system. Houston also gets cash or a player to be named later.

Verlander is owed $63 million through 2019, and also has a $22-million option for 2020 in his original Detroit deal.

For a while the deal appeared off, with reports surfacing that Verlander may have turned down the Astros. As it turned out, maybe he just took a little convincing.

Word had gotten out that he had the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers at the top of his wish list, with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, who weren’t involved, also on it. But it wasn’t known how he’d react to Houston. Yes, they are a solid contender. But no, it isn’t maybe as electric a city as some of the others; Verlander and his girlfriend, supermodel Kate Upton, have a place in Los Angeles (as well as other places).

However, the Dodgers are over the luxury-tax limit and acquired Yu Darvish at the first trade deadline, so they didn’t seem like a fit now. And the Cubs just didn’t have the prospects to match Houston, which is well-stocked.

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.

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