By: Will Burchfield
Wait, so the Cubs aren't interested in Justin Verlander?
But they are interested in a pair of Tigers pitchers, the two that the team is least likely to trade. Per Gammons Daily:
"The Cubs have called almost every team to see who might be available; they asked the Tigers about Michael Fullmer [sic] and/or Daniel Norris, but made it clear they had no interest in Justin Verlander, and as one Cub official said, "no one is going to pay $70M for him, even though he may still be a very good pitcher."
Verlander, who has a 4.73 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP through 18 starts, is owed $28 million per season through 2019. That's a prohibitive cost for most teams, even allowing for the fact that he figures to rebound in the second half.
The Tigers want assets in return for Verlander; they "would not view a deal of him as a pure money dump," per Yahoo Sports. To facilitate that, they'll likely have to eat a good portion of his contract. As Gammons points out, "the Tigers may pay $40+M for a prospect or two in a Verlander deal."
A factor working against the Tigers in negotiations is that the market isn't saturated with demand. One club personnel director told Gammons, "This is the reality: there are a lot more sellers than buyers right now."
So the Tigers won't necessarily have the advantage of leveraging teams against one another. Instead, those making offers for Verlander can do so knowing a) the competition is relatively slim and b) the Tigers' front-office is openly handcuffed at the moment.
The White Sox landed a nice haul for their former ace in the offseason, netting four prospects from the Red Sox, including Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech. But that situation, as the aforementioned club personnel director explained, was much different:
"What Boston traded for Chris Sale isn't going to be traded because Sale was unique—arguably the best pitcher in the league, affordable, under 30 years old, and the Red Sox had five really good position regulars between 22 and 26."
Not even Sonny Gray or Jose Quintana, both of whom are younger, cheaper and more controllable than Verlander, is likely to net a franchise-altering return in this year's trade market:
"Is someone willing to pay for Gray or Jose Quintana what the Royals were willing to pay for Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist when they had their window to win their first world series in 30 years? I don't think so," said the club personnel director.
Regarding Fulmer and Norris, the former is categorically off the table. That's a non-starter for the Tigers in any potential trade. The latter is at least attainable in theory, but the Tigers still have high hopes for Norris given his age (24) and raw talent. It'd be a shock to see a team gearing up for a rebuild deal a promising young starter.
If the Tigers trade a starting pitcher, it's almost certain to be Verlander. But it may not be to the Cubs, as was rumored last week, and it may not be for all that much.
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