Justin Verlander’s first year with the Mets hasn’t quite gone as planned. So much so that the Giants have expressed interest in the future Hall of Famer. Quite the rumor considering the endless Shohei Ohtani speculation.
Verlander certainly increased his trade value in his last start too. Against his longtime nemesis Yankees, he pitched six shutout innings of two-hit ball with six strikeouts. His ERA is down to 3.24 despite his strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) being a modest 7.69.
Not bad considering Verlander is 40 years old, the reigning AL Cy Young winner, and missed all of 2021 with Tommy John surgery. Teams will call the Mets immediately if he waives his no-trade clause. Maybe even the Yankees, particularly if general manager Brian Cashman keeps tearing down his broken system.
Unfortunately, the reality of the matter is simple: the Mets are not trading Verlander. For two reasons, actually.
The first is simple. As we just mentioned, Verlander has a full no-trade clause. No deal happens without his approval. Now add that he and his wife, model Kate Upton, own a penthouse on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Moving isn’t on his mind for both baseball and personal reasons.
The second is even simpler: Money. Verlander, at 40, is punching way above his weight in terms of salary. He’s only on a two-year contract with the Mets, but earning $43.3 million a year. If he pitches 140 innings next year, he triggers a $35 million vesting option for 2025.
That’s his remaining salary for this year, $43.3 million next season, and potentially $35 million in 2025. Even if the Mets cover some of the bill—and owner Steve Cohen can certainly afford it—that’s still a lot of money for a team to take on, especially for a 40-year-old in decline.
So at the end of the day, why won’t Verlander be traded? It’s not the money, nor his no-trade clause, although the latter is a pretty good one.
The fact of the matter is Verlander just isn’t Verlander anymore. Granted, he’s certainly looked like his old self recently, what with a 1.69 ERA this month and a 2.44 mark since June 2. His 3.24 ERA paired with a 3.93 FIP shows that while not necessarily a dominant ace anymore, Verlander can still keep up despite his age.
Except Verlander has been in this league for nearly two decades and everyone knows he’s at his best when he’s racking up strikeouts. Meanwhile, remember his 7.69 K/9 this season? That’s his lowest since 2015, and his walks per nine innings (BB/9) have more than doubled from last year to 3.03.
Now, add decreased fastball and changeup velocities and that he’s never been one to pitch to contact. Does 40-year-old Verlander really scream Coldstone-level “gotta have him” as a trade target?
None of this to Verlander isn’t worth his contract to some degree. Again, there’s still enough of a good pitcher in him that he might be overpaid, but certainly isn’t useless. Under more normal circumstances and without a maverick owner who writes big checks, he would indeed look like a solid trade target.
Except between the money, the no-trade, and other factors, this just isn’t that year.