Justin Verlander and the Cubs, a potential trade

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Aug 9, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) tips his hat to the crowd as he walks off the field after the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

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The Justin Verlander trade rumors have continued this week with a focus on talks between the Tigers and the Astros. However, Chicago Cubs left-hander Jon Lester’s start Thursday afternoon may change the direction of the conversation.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Cleveland Indians
Apr 15, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander looks at the ball after giving up a home run to Cleveland Indians designated hitter Carlos Santana (not pictured) during the second inning at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Lester went out against the Cincinnati Reds looking to take three out of four games. But he wouldn’t make it out of the second inning. After one and two-thirds innings, Lester left the game with an injury. The left-hander had given up nine runs, seven earned, on seven hits, bringing his ERA to 4.39 on the season.

The Cubs’ veteran left the game with lat tightness. The club expects to know more Friday morning regarding the injury, but a lat strain could put Lester on the disabled list for a few weeks or longer. This would come as a major blow to the World Series’ champs, who are currently in first place in National League Central.

If the three-time World Series champ is out for the playoffs, the Cubs may be on the market for a strong, veteran starter. And, it doesn’t take much to think JV would be on their radar. While there were murmurs of Verlander going to Chicago before the trade deadline, the Cubs weren’t interested in picking up the $56 million salary that came along with the Tigers’ ace. No Jon Lester could change that.

One scenario is that the Cubs take on a majority of Verlander’s salary and the Tigers don’t get a top-100 prospect in return, such as:

  • Right-hander Dillon Maples, who is currently playing in Triple-A and has the potential to get called up in the near future if not traded. He could serve the Tigers as a late-inning relief pitcher, with potential as a starter.
  • Center fielder D.J. Wilson was the Cubs minor league player of the month in July. The 20-year-old has a .790 OPS on the season with 11 home runs.

Another potential move? While the Cubs offense has been hit with injuries as of late, they might be willing to part ways with a Kyle Schwarber or Ian Happ in order to shore up their rotation. While either of these guys would be a great addition to the Tigers’ organization, the Cubs will be hesitant to part ways with these two assets.

[It’s also important to remember that any proposed deal between two teams would require that players on the big league rosters being traded must go through waivers, making any such scenario involving guys like Schwarber or Happ even less likely. Teams in the National League would have priority to claim either player before Detroit would.

But if Jon Lester is sidelined for an extended period of time, don’t be terribly surprised if the Tigers and Cubs briefly re-connect on talks involving Verlander.]