FOX Sports MLB Analyst
It is official.
Justin Verlander is heading back to the Houston Astros.
H-Town, run it back. It feels like 2017 all over again when the trade speculation was there, with rumors connecting him to the Dodgers, the Astros and then even the Orioles got involved late this time around, and there were a bunch of other teams too — but it ends up being the Astros who get him again.
The way this all came together was incredible. He was with the Astros for years and they finally decided to part ways. The Mets wanted to pay him the money that he got paid there, and then guess what, it all ended up working out for him to come right back to the Astros. It played right into Astros owner Jim Crane’s hands.
What a day. I’ve been up since 6 a.m., locked in and ready to go. I had a feeling this was going to happen. Justin is heading back to Houston, and it took quite a deal between the Astros and the Mets to get this done.
[Astros reunite with Justin Verlander in blockbuster trade with Mets]
Drew Gilbert is going back to the Mets. He’s the Astros’ No. 1 prospect and an absolute stud. He was drafted just last year in the first round out of Tennessee, and he’s an outfielder who rakes. The Mets are also getting the Astros’ No. 4 prospect, another highly rated outfielder named Ryan Clifford. It’s quite the haul.
According to the New York Post, the Mets will send $35 million to Houston for Verlander’s 2023 and 2024 seasons, then half of his 2025 option if it vests, which would push the total to $52.5 million.
But the Astros get back a Justin Verlander who is once again on top of his game right now. In his last seven starts, he has a 1.49 ERA, lowering his season ERA to 3.15 after a slow start. He may not win the American League Cy Young Award again this year after starting the season in the National League, but he is back in 2022 Cy Young form.
Now he gets to head back to Houston, the place where he has won multiple Cy Youngs and multiple World Series. It just felt like this was meant to be. He’s got his legacy there, and now he gets to go back and build on it in a way we never would have expected just a few short weeks ago.
This brings me to my next point, and an important one. How did it come to this? For one, this year’s Mets have been the biggest disappointment in the history of baseball. I don’t think there is any way around that now. They have the highest payroll in baseball history and are now clearly not making the playoffs. The second reason is that I think the Mets front office committed to selling a bit too early here. The David Robertson trade to the Marlins last Friday surprised players, including, of course, Max Scherzer, who said he needed to talk to the organization and figure out what was happening.
Well, within 24 hours, Scherzer himself was dealt, which leads to the third reason — the Scherzer trade. That is the reason I think we are here. After all, we are not too far removed from Justin saying after a start just over a week ago, “I’m committed to the Mets. I did not sign a one year deal here. I signed a multi-year deal because I believe we can win here and I want to win here and nothing has changed — and I have not been reached out to about a potential trade.”
But then the Scherzer trade went down, and I think that is what massively changed all of this. I really do. I think Max going out the door, because he was surprised by everything, led to Justin ultimately getting out of the door. Because a 40-year-old as decorated and still as flat-out good as he is should not have to go through a rebuild if he can avoid it.
EMERGENCY EPISODE: New York Mets have traded Justin Verlander back to the Houston Astros
So, here we are. Justin is back in Houston. There are some factors at play that people don’t think about. Justin just moved to New York and got a place there. When he considers having to move again, it definitely helps that he is obviously very familiar with the Houston area. Also, the Astros’ spring-training facility is very close to where he lives in Florida, whereas the Los Angeles Dodgers’ spring-training complex is in Arizona.
These logistics matter when you have a family like Justin now has. There is an advantage to going somewhere you are comfortable. That stuff really matters. I think that ultimately played into the decision to waive the no-trade clause and end up back in Houston where he now is.
Again, I am super, super-high on Gilbert, the prized prospect the Mets are getting in this trade. That is a good return for them. But I don’t think the Mets wanted to get to this, and it’s a massive organizational failure for them. Look what Mets general manager Billy Eppler was saying on Sunday — that this is not a fire sale. This is not a liquidation. This is just a repurposing.
Well shoot, this looks like a fire sale to me! You got rid of your two co-aces, you got rid of your closer and you got rid of at least one outfielder, Mark Canha, with Tommy Pham likely to follow. I don’t think there is a world in which they wanted it to go this way when they first traded Robertson, but the response from Scherzer and eventually Justin forced their hand.
[MLB trade deadline grades, tracker of every deal]
From the Astros’ perspective, however, as I mentioned at the beginning, this really does feel like 2017 all over again. We know how that worked out for the Astros. But just like at the 2017 deadline, the Dodgers were involved in trying to get Justin. They eventually went in a different direction and got Yu Darvish, the Astros ended up getting Justin, and in that World Series, Darvish got beaten twice, including in Game 7. Had the Dodgers traded for Justin instead, I think there is a good chance things turn out differently.
And now we are back here, in 2023. This one is just a little different because, while the Astros are now on top of their game, it feels like the gap in the American League narrowed a little bit. Well, with Justin back, so is that gap. Even without getting into the familiarity aspect, the Astros are adding a three-time Cy Young winner, a future Hall of Famer, and yes, might I add, a great brother. As a baseball player, Justin completely transforms that entire roster. I think he makes Framber Valdez a lot better. In my opinion, he makes the locker room a lot better, the entire pitching staff a lot better.
You don’t often get to add a guy who you know is going to be a leader the day he walks in, but this is a unique situation where that leader was only gone for a couple of months before Jim Crane and general manager Dana Brown brought him back.
And let me just repeat myself one more time for Mets fans — I do really like the return for the Mets in this trade. Not only that, but I do think Steve Cohen and what he is ultimately building there will work. I loved rooting on Justin with the Mets. With Francisco Alvarez, with Brett Baty, with Mark Vientos, with prospect Ronny Mauricio and now Drew Gilbert and Luisangel Acuña, who the Mets got from the Rangers for Scherzer, they have a bright future. But when you look up at the end of the year and see that you had Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, and now they’re both in Texas pitching for different teams, there is no way around the truth that this was absolutely a failure of a season.
Ultimately, Justin ends up with the Astros and it just feels like this team is now back to being, by far, the best team in the American League, just like they have been for the majority of the past decade. That is still true today.
Run it back, baby.
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