justin verlander mets astros rumor
Brad Penner | USA TODAY Sports

The Astros cheated in 2017. And sure, that malfeasance surely contributed to the Yankees’ inability to win a championship that fall. But Justin Verlander was a far more significant reason why.

The Bombers were too cheap and too cute to trade for him. Better to count the luxury tax pennies and roll with Sonny Gray. The Astros thought otherwise and wrote the checks. Verlander went and beat them in Games 2 and 6 of the ALCS, allowing one run over 16 innings of work. And has continued to be a Yankees killer ever since, winning two World Series titles and two Cy Young Awards in Houston before setting up shop across down with the Mets.

Well, at least for a few more days. Because it is hard to imagine Verlander will still be an Amazin’ come Tuesday’s 6 p.m. ET trade deadline. The Mets have quit on an epic flop of a season. It would make no sense to trade away David Robertson and Max Scherzer and whoever else, but hold onto Verlander. He will gone soon as well.

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If the Yankees are serious about salvaging this year, general manager Brian Cashman will find a way to finally bring Verlander to the Bronx. Yes, it would be a massive financial commitment — the kind owner Hal Steinbrenner has been hesitant to make for far too long. But this team is going nowhere without a massive on-the-fly roster transformation. And those cost money or prospects or both.

If the Yankees make the low-cost, around-the-edges additions we expect them to make — Randal Grichuk! — they have a good chance to eke out a wild card bid. And if they are really lucky, they will get the AL Central champion first and muscle-memory will take over for an opening round win. But after that? No hope.

Bring Verlander in, though, and you have something. If you can roll out Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodón, a healthy Nestor Cortes and Verlander come the postseason, you might be able to get by with a few lineup tweaks and hope guys like Anthony Rizzo will wake up. And that rotation will be under contract next year (and potentially the year after that). You suddenly have a clear window again.

Mets owner Steve Cohen has made it clear he will deal with anyone. He would not have shipped Robertson to the Marlins if he was worried about optics or a move coming back to directly hurt his team. There is no reason to believe he would not work with the Yankees so long as the deal was good for him. The Bombers need to make the money work, find a prospect they can live without and get it done. Don’t let Verlander head back to the Astros. Or land in Baltimore or Los Angeles. Right the wrong of six years ago.

James Kratch can be reached at james.kratch@xlmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @jameskratch.

James Kratch is the managing editor of ESNY. He previously worked as a Rutgers and Giants (and Mike Francesa) beat reporter for NJ Advance Media.