March 2, 2024

Justin Verlander trade rumors: At least five teams interested in ace as Mets continue deadline sell-off

The New York Mets, arguably the most disappointing team in Major League Baseball this season, continue to engage with teams about veteran ace Justin Verlander ahead of Tuesday’s 6 p.m. trade deadline (follow the latest news and buzz here). At least five clubs are believed to be involved: the Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, and San Diego Padres, according to reports by MLB Network’s Jon Morosi and the New York Post‘s Jon Heyman.

Verlander, 40, is in the first season of a two-year pact worth more than $86 million. His contract includes a conditional player option for 2025 worth another $35 million. It’s too early to know if Verlander will gain that option, since it’s dependent in part on his innings count next season. (It’s also too early to know if Verlander would request that option be guaranteed as part of an agreement for him waiving his no-trade clause to facilitate a move.)

If we can speculate a little — and hey, what is the deadline for if not that? —  the Braves would appear least likely to land Verlander for a few reasons, including the quality of prospect they can offer the Mets and New York’s presumed disinclination to move Verlander within the division. (The Mets did trade closer David Robertson to the Miami Marlins, so perhaps that second point is irrelevant.) The Dodgers are reportedly pursuing Detroit Tigers left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, and if they’re successful on that front that may minimize their willingness to pony up for Verlander as well. 

That series of events could leave the Orioles, Astros, and Padres — plus any other late entrants — slugging it out for Verlander’s services. Both the Orioles and Padres have elite prospects to offer the Mets — the Padres have shown time and again they’re willing to make bold moves; the Orioles, conversely, have yet to make a signature transaction at the top of the market. Of course, that’s all speculation. Negotiations and motivations can change on a whim. But that’s the beauty of the deadline, too, you never know what’s going to happen until it does. 

The three-time Cy Young winner has amassed a 3.15 ERA (131 ERA+) and a 2.61 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 16 starts this season. Verlander has been brilliant as of late, notching a 1.69 ERA and 16 more strikeouts than walks over the course of six July starts. 

A Verlander trade would continue the Mets’ sell-off off recent days. On Saturday, they shipped their other veteran ace, Max Scherzer, along with a considerable amount of money to the Texas Rangers in return for infield prospect Luisangel Acuña. They’ve also traded outfielder Mark Canha to the Brewers and closer David Robertson to the Marlins, and are expected to move another hitter, in outfielder Tommy Pham, before the deadline elapses. Obviously this is not what the Mets had in mind when they paired Verlander and Scherzer at the top of their rotation.

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