The Detroit Tigers staring a full blown rebuild square in the face while the Atlanta Braves are 3 years into theirs and are looking for the finish line. The problem for the Tigers is they have some veteran players on big contracts they’d like to move to expedite that rebuild. The problem for the Braves is they don’t seem to have much interest in going with all kids for the upcoming seasons and are searching for reliable veterans they can pair with their impressive group of prospects. These two realities have led some to wonder if these two teams could come together and help each other out. And the most obvious player to facilitate such an outcome is Justin Verlander.
Verlander, long one of the best pitchers in the game, has seen father time take its toll on his game and consequently, his value. The Tigers signed Verlander to a massive 7-year/180 million-dollar contract back in 2012 and, as is normally the case with veteran contacts this size, it looks less appealing year after year. Essentially, the contract is underwater. The last 2 years of the deal pay Verlander 28 million/year as well as the 5 or so million he’s still owed this year and the harsh reality is he simply isn’t worth that anymore.
Verlander’s numbers this year have been just average. 4 ERA, 4 FIP, league average strikeout rates, little worse than league average walk rates, thought lately the numbers have improved. Over his last 6 starts, he’s running a 2.31 ERA and strikeouts have gone up while the walks have gone down. Verlander’s had dips in performance before and has always bounced back so he’s certainly not washed up. He’s just not worth what he’s owed.
But just because you aren’t worth 28 million/year doesn’t mean you’re worthless. The dip in Verlander’s performance this year as well as the position Detroit is in as a franchise are exactly the factors that make him available to a team like Atlanta. The Braves have, understandably, shown a hesitancy to move any of their top prospects while simultaneously searching high and low for reliable starting pitching after failing to do so last offseason. This makes an overpaid but still quality pitcher like Verlander a logical candidate to pursue.
But what would it take?
Early on, Detroit was reportedly telling interested teams they would have to pay down the full contract as well as send a legitimate package of prospects to get any deal done. It’s nice to have dreams but here on this planet, an actual deal will look very different and will somewhat depend on what Detroit wants out of it. The general formula for these types of trades is the more money you eat, the better prospects you get. Assuming Detroit wants a real prospect back, the number I’ve heard is they’re going to have to eat around 30 million or so, or half of what’s still owed. This of course is a sliding scale. The more money they force onto the acquiring team, the more it’ll look like a salary dump. They more they take on themselves, the more they help their farm.
We obviously don’t know where Detroit stands on that scale but I want to make a trade today so we’re going to put them right in the middle. Basically, eating as little money as possible while still getting a real prospect. So that’s why the first part of our deal is Detroit is eating around 30 million.
But what about the return?
I put a “real” prospect somewhere between the top 75-125 in all of MLB or in the Braves’ case, somewhere around the 9-15 range of their individual top prospects plus maybe a filler. Detroit will have their own scouting preferences relative to Atlanta’s system but, again I want to make a trade today. so for today’s exercise, we’re going to assume their views and the industry views match up pretty well.
So, if Detroit is committed to picking up 30 million in the deal, I’m saying a “fair” deal for Verlander to ATL is:
ATL gets: Justin Verlander 30M
To be clear, this is not a post advocating Atlanta do this deal. This is simply looking at the value of the pieces and coming up with what a fair deal probably looks like. I’m sure there’s plenty of you right now saying you’re not giving up 6 years of Touki for 2 years of Verlander. It’s understandable. But at 14M/year instead of 28M, Verlander has value, and value must be given to acquire him.
This is just how they do it. I’ll the leave the “should they do it” up to you guys.