Justin Verlander is now a Houston Astro, which means that the team absolutely must win the 2017 American League pennant.
The former AL Cy Young Award winner and MVP was acquired from the Detroit Tigers late last night in exchange for three prospects: pitcher Franklin Perez, catcher Jake Rogers, and outfielder Daz Cameron. The Astros also received what ESPN cited as ” a player to be named later and cash considerations.”
Houston also took on the remaining money on the 34-year-old’s contract, $56 million due across 2018 and 2019 and the remainder of the $28 million Verlander will make this season.
Given those factors, the Astros need to go into overdrive so that they can make the World Series and make this deal worth it.
Verlander in Detroit
Anyone can safely say that though Verlander has looked better recently, especially after going 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA in August, he has not looked like himself most of the season. Verlander has gone just 10-8 with a 3.82 ERA for the rebuilding Tigers in 2017.
A lot of his struggles have to do with increased walks, as he has issued 67 free passes in 172 innings this year after allowing only 57 in 227.2 frames last season. Verlander is still on his way to a potential 4+ WAR season in spite of that.
In fact, there is little reason why he shouldn’t reach that mark now that he is on the Astros, who lead the AL West by 11.5 games. Houston has won 80 games already and now has the pitching boost it needs to be all the more competitive in the postseason.
But will the move pay off?
Verlander in Houston
The best thing about Verlander being in Houston is that, despite his pedigree, he is not the ace and subsequent face of the pitching staff. That honor belongs to lefty Dallas Keuchel, who won the AL Cy Young back in 2015.
Verlander also joins a staff that includes talented righty Lance McCullers Jr. (who is set to return from a back injury next week) and also strong arms like Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock. This gives Houston a great deal of pitching depth and a number of options come the postseason.
And Verlander’s arrival could not come at a better time for Houston, who have gone just 20-24 since the All-Star break. This can be attributed to injuries to key players, namely star shortstop Carlos Correa and outfielder George Springer. Correa has not played since July 17, whereas Springer returned to the lineup last month and has hit just .200 since.
The most significant injury, however, has been to Keuchel. He was 9-0 with a 1.87 ERA when he went down with a neck injury in June and didn’t return until July 28. Keuchel is 2-3 with a 5.35 ERA since his return, and the acquisition of Verlander suddenly makes all the more sense.
Thus, between Verlander coming to Houston and the Astros getting some key players back from injury, there is little to no reason that the team should not make a deep playoff run en route to the World Series. The change of scenery should do the veteran righty good and Houston’s lineup will be further boosted by the return of Correa to the lineup tonight.
All the pieces are in place for the Astros to win the pennant this year. It’s just a matter of execution, and trading for Verlander has helped their chances.
Here’s hoping that Houston pulls it off, lest management want critics to chide them for taking on a great deal of money.
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