Tuesday, November 28 2023
New York Mets starting pitcher Justin Verlander during the first inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox Wednesday, July 19, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Justin Verlander had been solid for the Mets, but they didn’t have much reason to keep him. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Justin Verlander’s New York Mets career has ended after four months, while his Houston Astros career is resuming from its five-and-a-half years.

The Mets continued their trade deadline fire sale Tuesday by sending the former MVP to the Astros, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. In return, the Mets will receive outfield prospects Drew Gilbert and Ryan Clifford.

Verlander joined the Mets last winter on a two-year, $86.7 million contract in free agency after 5.5 years with the Houston Astros. That deal matched the MLB-record average annual value of Verlander’s former teammate Max Scherzer, who signed a three-year, $130 million contract following the 2021 season.

Now, both Verlander and Scherzer are on the way out. The Mets began their sale Thursday by trading closer David Robertson to the Miami Marlins, a move that led to Scherzer telling reporters Friday that he wanted to speak with team brass about the team’s future. Less than a day later, Scherzer was on the way out via a trade with the Texas Rangers.

Verlander pitched Sunday in New York and received a standing ovation from the home fans. He also admitted postgame that the Scherzer trade changed things for him with the Mets.

The Mets had plenty of reason to embrace selling at this year’s deadline, most notably because they entered Tuesday with a 50-55 record and six games back from the third and final NL wild-card spot. This year’s market is notably lacking in quality starting pitchers, allowing the Mets to offload the two highest-paid players in baseball and receive an impressive return in prospects for a farm system that needed them.

In his first — and now only — season with the Mets, the 40-year-old Verlander recorded a 3.24 ERA, 1.146 WHIP and 76 strikeouts in 89 innings across 15 starts. He missed the first month of the season due to a low-grade teres major strain in his shoulder but hasn’t missed a start since. Those numbers are a slight step back from the performance that won Verlander two Cy Young Awards in Houston, but they still made him one of the best options available for buyers at this year’s deadline.

Astros get their ace back with Justin Verlander

The last time the Astros acquired Verlander at the deadline in 2017, it worked out pretty well.

This Astros team isn’t much like the Astros teams Verlander starred for, though. The team currently sits a half-game back from the Texas Rangers for first in the AL West and is in the second AL wild-card spot, with a +59 run differential that indicates they aren’t quite the machine they were from 2017 through 2022. The Astros have made a hard pivot toward a more traditional approach to player analysis and development, with mixed results.

What does it mean for Houston?

The Astros make it all the more likely that someday, when Justin Verlander is inducted into the Hall of Fame, he’ll be wearing a blue and orange Houston cap for the ceremony — and his time with the Mets will be remembered as a strange blip in his long and illustrious career.

Verlander arrived in Houston seconds before the now-defunct waiver deadline at the end of August 2017, two months before the organization won its first World Series. He won two Cy Young awards and two championship rings — including both last season — with an Astros team that built itself into a seemingly unstoppable postseason force — and frequent foil as baseball’s biggest villain — over the past half-decade. When Verlander became a free agent this past offseason, Mets owner Steve Cohen’s deep pockets overpowered the ace’s personal relationship with Astros owner Jim Crane, but the Mets’ stunning failure this season created the opportunity for a reunion, and Verlander waived his no-trade clause to take it.

He’ll return to an Astros’ rotation that was the best in baseball when he was part of it last season and has mostly managed to survive an onslaught of injuries this year but could use reinforcements in a division that has become much more crowded at the top. Now 40 years old, Verlander might be slightly diminished from his improbable Cy Young form last season, but he has shown recently that he can still dominate. After a belated and initially rough start for the Mets, he has pitched to a 3.15 ERA this season, good for 12th among starters with at least 90 innings and plenty good enough to help a short-handed Astros’ rotation that has nonetheless compiled the third-lowest ERA in baseball.

After four months with former Detroit Tigers teammate Max Scherzer in New York, the two aging aces will now face off in an AL West race that has been reinvigorated at the deadline, with Scherzer to the division-leading Texas Rangers and Verlander to the Astros, just a half-game behind. — Hannah Keyser

Mets get another significant prospect in their fire sale

The Mets never wanted to be in this position, but they seem to be doing well for themselves, given that they’re shedding the two highest-paid players in MLB history.

In Gilbert, the Mets receive a prospect who is currently ranked as baseball’s No. 68 by MLB Pipeline but has been receiving significant buzz as a rising prospect. He was the Astros’ 2022 first-round draft pick at No. 28 overall.

Clifford, ranked by Pipeline as Houston’s No. 4 prospect, is hitting .291/.399/.520 this season between High-A and Double-A. MLB.com’s Jim Callis noted that he would’ve been reranked as the Astros’ No. 2 prospect next week if he were still in the system.

The Scherzer trade netted the Mets infield prospect Luisangel Acuña, a top-50 prospect on MLB Pipeline, while Robertson landed infielder Marco Vargas and catcher Ronald Hernández, who are both considered big risers this season.

Source: Yahoo Sports


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