ARLINGTON -- Justin Verlander hasn't thrown his last pitch for the Tigers yet. He's set to make his scheduled turn in Detroit's rotation on Tuesday night against the Rangers. His fiancee, Kate Upton, will be watching, as will likely a scout from the Houston Astros. But while Verlander and Upton
ARLINGTON -- Justin Verlander hasn't thrown his last pitch for the Tigers yet. He's set to make his scheduled turn in Detroit's rotation on Tuesday night against the Rangers. His fiancee, Kate Upton, will be watching, as will likely a scout from the Houston Astros. But while Verlander and Upton are ready to exchange vows in the future, there is no sign the Tigers and Astros are close to committing to a trade to send Verlander to Houston.
Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported that the Astros and Tigers were in talks regarding Verlander, then revised that report to note that they last talked last week. Nothing has changed since last week, when MLB.com's Jon Morosi reported that the two sides had talked. Those talks have seemingly stalled, leaving the teams still well apart.
There's a sense among those tracking the Tigers that the team would like to get a deal done this month, rather than wait until the offseason, and is working with that goal in mind. However, the same obstacle remains: How do teams translate Verlander's value as a big-game pitcher into prospects and salary taken on from what's left on his contract?
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Verlander has two years at $28 million each remaining on his contract, plus a $22 million option for 2020 that vests if he finishes fifth or better in Cy Young Award voting in '19. Verlander also has full no-trade rights as a 10-and-5 player -- 10 years in the Major Leagues, the last five or more with the same team -- so he has leverage over that option if he so chooses.
The Tigers believe Verlander is good enough that they should get top propsects in a deal without having to eat most of the contract. But the teams that could take on such a contract filled their starting pitching needs last month -- the Dodgers with Yu Darvish, the Cubs with Jose Quintana and the Yankees with Sonny Gray.
The contender that could use Verlander the most by far at this point is Houston, which doesn't do contracts like what Verlander has. The Astros fell to 3-10 this month with Monday's 2-0 loss at Arizona, and ace Dallas Keuchel's 2-1 win Sunday at Texas was his first quality start in four outings since his return from the disabled list.
One potential compromise that Morosi reported last week would be an opt-out clause allowing Verlander to get out of his deal if he doesn't want to stay in Houston long-term, and thus absolving the Astros of the remaining salary. But it's questionable whether the Tigers can get top prospects in return if there's no certainty whether Verlander is a rental player or a long-term addition; such a deal might require some players to be named later depending on whether Verlander opts out.
The situation is expected to come to a head next week, the last full week before the Aug. 31 deadline for players to be dealt in order to be eligible for postseason play with their new team. Players must go through waivers in order to be traded in August, but Verlander already cleared them earlier this month.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.