Just Say No to Justin Verlander
Howard Bender warns you off of trading based on name recognition and to avoid Justin Verlander at all costs in the second half.
Tick tock! Tick tock! The MLB trade deadline looms and while some big-league GMs in need of added components for a playoff push are feeling the pressure and bear a striking resemblance to Captain Hook being stalked by a giant crocodile, others are calmly doing their due diligence as they look to build up their farm systems and shed payroll for next year. Royals GM Dayton Moore is Captain Hook. Tigers GM Al Avila is sitting back in his plush chair with his feet up on the desk just waiting for the market to soften.
Avila has already saved the Tigers close to $5M as that’s what was left on J.D. Martinez’ contract, but somehow Avila convinced Arizona they could handle the cost on their own. Maybe it was the choice between money and better prospects, as the haul was very mediocre, but considering his next order of business is trading Justin Verlander, he was more than happy to get the savings on the Martinez deal.
Moving Verlander is going to be a tall order. Not only is he due to make another $70M over the next two years, but the declining performance isn’t going to help. Avila supposedly started shopping him around the league a few weeks ago but when no one showed much interest, the GM quickly released statements that the team wasn’t shopping him and the report were erroneous. Now, the latest reports out of Detroit say that the team would be willing to eat the $28M the veteran righty is still owed for this season, so perhaps Avila changed his tune with the hopes that some contender will finally cave in and the Tigers can save face and cash all in one fell swoop.
So what does this mean for the fantasy community? Not a whole heck of a lot, in truth. The Tigers window to trade Verlander closed on April 15 when he coughed up nine runs on 11 hits and one walk over four innings against the Cleveland Indians. His first two starts of the season were solid, but after the Tax Day mayhem, things just went from bad to worse. Verlander had some nice starts sprinkled in here and there, but the 4.54 ERA, the 1.47 WHIP and the declining strikeout rate say it all. He is not the pitcher he once was and the 2016 performance looked more like a dying man’s last hurrah before the death rattle.
Even if you wanted to suggest a potential turnaround should Verlander end up in the National League, something that happens to a lot of starting pitchers who cross league boundaries, there’s not a whole lot to like. Maybe he sees an uptick in strikeouts from facing a pitcher instead of a designated hitter, but a look at his peripherals shows just how hittable he is and how much worse it’s gotten over the course of the season. Verlander’s hard contact rate is the highest it’s ever been and as a result, he’s failing to challenge hitters and making weak attempts at nibbling the corners. He’s also been forced to abandon his changeup almost entirely as he’s not getting any legitimate movement on the pitch anymore. A vintage Verlander was using his change 15-17 percent of the time. This year it’s less than five percent. It’s just not working; like the rest of his game.
If the Verlander owner in your league is trying to trade him to you for the second half, turn and run. Run far away. Let your competition make a trade based on name recognition alone. You’re better than that. You’re not going to fall for the banana in the tailpipe. You’re going to drive away, find much more reliable targets and end up cruising to Victory Lane.