Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Astros Trade For Former Mets Great

The Astros traded Drew Gilbert and Ryan Clifford for Justin Verlander. Perhaps you've heard of him.

Verlander is owed the remainder of his contract for 2023, which is about $14.7m, and he has another guaranteed $43.3m due in 2024. If he throws 140IP in 2024, a $35m option vests for 2025. The Mets will pay $35m to cover 2023-24, and half of 2025 if the contract vests. Essentially, the Astros added Justin Verlander to the rotation for the next 2+ seasons for a total of $40.5m. That's why both Gilbert and Clifford went to New York. 

Verlander started the season on the IL and didn't return to the rotation until May 4. His first eight starts of the season were rough: 39IP, 39H/21ER, 33K:13BB, 7HR allowed, 4.85 ERA / 1.33 WHIP. Opponents had a .767 OPS on a .283 BABIP. 14% of his strikes were looking, just 9% swinging. 

In his last eight starts, however, a different story emerges: 49.1IP, 35H/11ER, 42K:18BB, 2HR allowed, 2.01 ERA / 1.07 WHIP. Opponents with a .531 OPS on a .241 BABIP (his career BABIP is .279). 18% of his strikes were looking, 10% swinging. 

Joe Perez was DFA'd to make room for Verlander.

ESPN gave the trade an A.

It is extremely easy (yet also valid) to just say, "The Astros could have just paid Verlander last off-season and then you hold on to your top two prospects." And you're right. But while McCullers pitching 0.0IP in 2023 was certainly foreseeable, you probably wouldn't have thought that both Luis Garcia and Jose Urquidy would miss significant amounts of time. Verlander is now an Astro through all of Garcia's rehab, and Urquidy will be back any day now, and Steve Cohen essentially financed his return (at the cost of Gilbert and Clifford). 

Every Verlander start from this point forward means less innings thrown by Brandon Bielak or Ronel Blanco, both of whom performed admirably but were a little underwater with their peripherals - Bielak with a 3.74 WHIP underlied by a 5.27 FIP; Blanco with a 4.70 ERA and a 6.27 FIP. Verlander, with the addition of Kendall Graveman, also play a domino effect on the bullpen. Graveman can help give Maton, Abreu, and Pressly more time off. Verlander has also recorded at least 18 outs in six of his last eight starts, shortening the game for the bullpen. 

The rotation had been Framber, Javier, Brown, Bielak, and France. Now, or soon, anyway, it can be Verlander, Urquidy, Framber, Javier, Brown/Bielak/France, whatever it takes to get them to the end of the season and prepare for 2024. Innings total, 2022-2023 (I know the Verducci Effect is BS, but it's still worth noting workload):

Brown: 126.1IP in 2022, 111IP in 2023

France: 110.2IP in 2022, 111IP in 2023

Bielak: 101IP in 2022, 100.1IP in 2023

Not to mention that Verlander is a frontline postseason arm, giving the Astros a 1-2-3 of Framber, Verlander, and Javier (assuming that Framber and Javier aren't broken in October...and just save your jokes about World Series Verlander.) Verlander missed the first six weeks of the season, and we all kinda hope the Astros' 2023 season lasts an extra, I don't know, four weeks? Might be fine. 

Ultimately, Verlander was a move the Astros didn't think they needed to make in December, but by August they couldn't not make it. Things change, Mox. Take the money the Mets are paying Verlander and extend Kyle Tucker right tf now, seeing as he doesn't have the two top prospects in the organization "breathing" down his "neck." 

Yes, you can talk yourself into being upset about losing Gilbert and Clifford, but might I remind you of the Can't-Miss existence of "Brett Wallace" and how no prospect is a sure thing, but also mention the fact that Verlander will start for the Astros in Yankee Stadium this weekend. We're in the closing stages of a dynasty here. Milk that shit for as many rings as you can. Oh, and hey, guess what: the Astros just drafted 20 guys like three weeks ago. 19 of them signed. Next year they'll draft 20 more. 

FanGraphs does a good job at what has changed mechanically for Verlander in his all-too-short time with the Mets. 

*So, to recap: The Astros got Verlander and Graveman. The Rangers got Scherzer, Jordan Montgomery, Chris Stratton, and Austin Hedges. It'll be nice to watch a little division race in September and not, you know, have it wrapped up already. 

*Astros Division/Playoff/Pennant/World Series Odds, FanGraphs:

Opening Day: 53.4% to win division, 79% to make postseason, 18.5% to win AL, 9% to win WS.

Memorial Day: 46.3% to win division, 80.8% to make postseason, 18.9% to win AL, 9.5% to win WS.

All-Star Break: 43.3% to win division, 66.4% to make postseason, 13.7% to win AL, 5.6% to win WS.

Today: 58.7% to win division, 85.1% to make postseason, 23.6% to win AL, 11.9% to win WS.

*The Verlander trade came together when the Astros saw how much money the Mets were sending to Las Colinas for Scherzer. And I hope you love having Maldonado in the lineup.

*The Astros were also in on Brooks "Who Really Won the 2020 election" Raley, but nothing came of it. Obviously.

*MLB: Pros and Cons of nine top trade deadline candidates (yeah, Verlander is in here). 

*Jim Crane told media that they were interested in both Snell and Hader from San Diego, but the Padres are run by three raccoons in a trench coat.