The Runner Sports

Kicking And Screaming, Justin Verlander Deigns To Join Astros. Oh, Thank You, Sir!

Apparently eyeing his Rolex as the seconds approached midnight, Detroit’s ace right-hander, Justin Verlander, kept the baseball world in suspense as August made its inevitable rendezvous with September. Verlander, now leading the league in needless drama, played the petulant kid, exclaiming to any who would listen about his desire to join the Cubs. Having won the World Series last season, a request to go to Chicago didn’t seem unreasonable.

After the Cubs reportedly didn’t want to meet Detroit’s demands for prospects in return, any deal with the Astros seemed to collapse under its own weight. Having failed to land the 34-year-old Verlander (or any starting arm, for that matter) at the non-waiver July 31 trade deadline, it looked like another deadline fail for Houston GM Jeff Luhnow. Apparently, it’s not so much that Verlander nixed the initial deal to Houston, he just was waiting as long as possible in case the Cubs could come through.

With literally seconds to spare before the midnight deadline, Thursday, Detroit GM Al Avila talked Verlander into the Astros deal, cajoling him to relent, as no other team had wanted to step up with a big enough wheelbarrow for his annual salary. With the Cubs cooling due to the high price tag, Houston was all that was left. Avila mentioned that the Tigers were in the midst of a rebuild, as well, and that seemed to be the last straw. Cue the next sound: A heavy sigh from Verlander.

Still, reportedly, the Astros players were delighted to have improved their team by adding the potential future Hall-of-Famer who wanted to join a storied franchise who still had a chance to win a World Series, which he’s never done. Maybe Verlander can help on both counts, now.

Remember, Verlander was the one who, within the last hour before the July 31 deadline, tweeted a selfie from the Yankees’ visitor’s clubhouse, and the sign, “Still a Tiger.” Problem? The heretofore secret Wifi code word to the Yankees’ clubhouse was clearly visible on the locker room wall behind him.

Delicate Ecosystem

The Houston clubhouse is nothing if not an incredibly delicate ecosystem, preened and nursed from infancy since the moment George Springer burst upon the Houston scene in 2014. If Zoolander Verlander can’t successfully check his ego at the velvet rope that is Springer and team’s winning locker room, Club Astros may just deny him entry, stunning supermodel wife-to-be (Kate Upton) or not.

Moments after the trade was consummated, Houston manager A.J. Hinch reported that Verlander was excited, and asked when he could throw his next bullpen, and get ready for his next start. Hinch has announced that the newest Astro will make his first start in Seattle, Tuesday, September 5. The Astros will have two doubleheaders in the coming week, so not only will the team’s rotation be fluid, it’ll have to be unusually flexible.

A Pair of Aces

Hinch will have a monumental task juggling the respective egos of his, now, two aces. 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner, Dallas Keuchel, has a right to still be considered the team’s ace, but he’s also smart enough to know the powerful addition that was just made to his team. Verlander comes in, though, having worn the mantle of “ace” far longer than has Keuchel, and he’ll expect his due, as well. Keuchel, too, is coming off his July 31 public displeasure and disgust at the team failing to make a significant move, particularly one that would help the rotation.

It should be noted, and loudly, that Keuchel showed up at Houston Police Headquarters Friday morning, helping the Bayou City’s finest with the seemingly endless task of delivering water and other essentials to the folks displaced by Hurricane Harvey.

The New York Mets, in town for a three-game series starting with Saturday’s doubleheader, didn’t sit idly on their day off either. Many of them showed up at the Houston’s Police Officer’s Union to help feed the officers. Houston fans going to the games this weekend: It’s OK to loudly applaud the opponent for these games!

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Related: The Astros’ Week Following Harvey

Price High, But Not Unrecoverable

The shine had dulled on Verlander as the 2017 season progressed, as he pitched to a 4.96 ERA for his first 17 starts. In his 74 innings since, the six-time All-Star has posted a 2.31 ERA, with 84 strikeouts versus only 20 walks.

With Verlander comes $16 million from Detroit to help cover the remaining portion of his salary, as well as a future player to be named. Meanwhile, Houston had to depart with three of its top 11 prospects, but all are at positions with at least equal quality within the system. Pitcher Franklin Perez (19, but already at the Double-A level), catcher Jake Rogers, and OF Daz Cameron now head to a variety of Detroit’s affiliates.

Related: Jake Rogers Discovers Bat Goes Hand in Glove With Defensive Skills

Houston fans should have faith that Verlander’s professionalism will hold forth, and while he’ll be unsuccessful in rearranging the letters on his jersey to spell “C-U-B-S,” he should have no problem mixing with an exciting, young team eager to add him to the roster as a much-needed shot in the arm, shooting for the same goal.


Meanwhile, in an alternate universe, this story may have emerged, no doubt triggered by a pesky clerical error: In a late Thursday trade made just prior to the Verlander deal, the Detroit Tigers traded outfielder Kate Upton to the Angels. Eighteen pair of Jimmy Choo stilettos showed up at the team’s Anaheim offices at about the same time Justin Upton plopped himself down to dinner just as Verlander was beginning the soup course.

This interesting non-baseball side note, as a future new Astro wife enters the arena: How will Kate fit in with the already established Crush City Ladies Who Lunch? Will Mrs. Altuve and Mrs. McCullers, to name two, be offered the highly sought-after spots, say, at the showing of the Fall Versace line?

And, you thought only Verlander brought the drama at midnight?

Related: Verlander Will Give Astros What They’ve Never Had. A Ring? Maybe. Legitimacy? Definitely

Brad Kyle

Brad Kyle

Brad Ramone with (L-R) Dee Dee, Johnny, and Joey Ramone, backstage at Houston's Liberty Hall, July, 1977.

Johnny, the Ramones' influential guitarist, who passed away in 2004 at 55, was an avid baseball and New York Yankees fan since childhood. He even once ranked baseball above rock'n'roll in a personal Top 10 List!

Like Johnny, my love for rock is only equaled by my love for baseball and my hometown Houston Astros, present and past!

At TRS, you'll get full Astros coverage, minor league peeks, player profiles, interviews, MLB historical perspective, and maybe a little rock'n'roll!
Brad Kyle