Unless you have been living under a rock for the better part of a month now, you already know that Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander has been the subject of trade talks. Having said that, little to no progress has been made in any deals because of the numerous obstacles in the way to completing said deal.
Whether it is the money owed to Verlander ($56M through 2019), his no-trade clause, or the fact that he's not getting any younger (turns 35 next February), any suitors have been hesitant to make progress in trade talks for the former Cy Young and MVP with the Tigers.
However, there appears to be an added wrinkle to this whole story, one that could certainly fuel further spark any transaction.
Fox Sports and MLB.com columnist Jon Paul Morosi recently shared a piece of information that could really ramp things up for Verlander, the Tigers and any team interested in his services. According to the new collective bargaining agreement that was agreed upon by MLB and the Players' Association last winter, Verlander has the power to exercise an opt-out, should he be dealt.
The Houston Astros have remained the only team before and after the non-waiver trade deadline to show legitimate interest in Verlander. All other potential buyers have already addressed pitching needs elsewhere, thus diminishing the immediate market for Verlander. However, like everyone else, the Astros have been reluctant to take on a big chunk of change given the potential red flags.
Verlander has already cleared waivers since the non-waiver trade deadline. And as everyone knows, he has the power in any proposed deal,with his 10-and-5 rights. However should he be willing to waive that clause in his contract, he then could implement an opt-out clause as early as after this season.
Here's another mini wrinkle. As Morosi points out, the CBA allows for the opt-out clause that Verlander could exercise to be of the player variety, obviously. The consensus has been that Detroit would have to throw in some cash in any deal if they wanted a worthy enough package of prospects in return.
The Astros and Tigers could still agree to any such deal, where Detroit gives Houston some percentage of Verlander's remaining salary, contingent on Verlander doesn't opt out… contingent on Verlander waiving his no-trade clause.
But it all starts and ends with Verlander. Here's how it can be beneficial to all three parties involved, per Morosi:
The Astros wouldn't want to surrender premium prospects if Verlander intends to depart after the season; similarly, Houston likely would be uneasy with the risk of an injured or ineffective Verlander deciding not to opt-out.
The Tigers can include cash to offset the Astros' financial risk in the deal, and that amount can be conditional, pending the exercise of an option, according to one source.
So, the Astros would have a degree of financial protection from injury or underperformance, the apparently retooling Tigers would guarantee at least some future payroll savings and Verlander could chase an elusive World Series ring with the American League's best team, without immediately committing long-term to a new city.
Morosi is quick to remind us all that this doesn't necessarily increase the likelihood of a deal being made before the end of August (playoff rosters have to be finalized before September 1), but that it provides the two teams with “unique tools with which to find common ground.”
In terms of performance on the field, any a Verlander-to-Houston trade seems to be a perfect match. The American League's best team has really struggled to get production out of their pitching staff in the second half. In fact, only the Rockies and Reds have higher team ERA marks in baseball since the All-Star break than do the Astros.
Meanwhile, Verlander continues to trend up in that department. His one-hit gem on Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates extended a run where he is registering a sub-2.00 ERA over his last seven starts.