New York Yankees Food For Thought: Justin Verlander in the rotation?


Relax, relax, this is more than likely never going to happen. Recently, the Detroit Tigers’ ace Justin Verlander mentioned how cool it would be for teams to fight over him once he hits free agency. Now, like with any other big name free agent, the New York Yankees are automatically thrown into the ring. Let’s say for the sake of argument that it is possible for Verlander to become a Yankee. Would signing Verlander be worth the giving up of draft picks and money? Is a long-term deal with someone like Verlander a possibility in New York?

Ironically, Justin Verlander is pitching against the Yankees in this photograph. (Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

Now the cynical card is not something I’m trying to play, I’m just simply being realistic. Verlander’s career has been one in which he found dominance in the heart of his prime as a major league pitcher. With the exception of his bad 2008, every year since 2006, Verlander has done nothing but impress. Looking more recently from 2010 on, he’s found ways to absolutely frustrate hitters. Quite obviously, Verlander’s stock has risen tremendously since his 2010 campaign and ever more-so with 2011’s MVP and AL Cy Young season. You’d be out of your mind to not try and sign him.

In New York though, Verlander would be put to a test. Comparatively to pre-Yankee and Brewer CC Sabathia, Verlander has spent his entire career in the AL Central. It’s not that the AL Central is a bad division, but the only two teams in that rather soft offensive division he’s had clear success against are the Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins. When you factor out of the power bats of Verlander’s Tigers, the AL Central doesn’t have many threats aside from Joe Mauer, Billy Butler and Paul Konerko.

However in the AL East, against teams like Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles who have had solid offenses, Verlander has had success, so maybe there’s a correlation somewhere along the line. Clearly Verlander is a very capable pitcher and perhaps I’m just nitpicking, but he should do fine in virtually any division. If we take a look at what has been powering Verlander in the past three seasons, we’ll see there’s an increased K/9 ratio from 8.79 to 9.03 and a lower BB/9 ratio of 2.85 to 2.27. Clearly Verlander’s control is something that he has absolutely no problems with.

Much like any ace, Verlander has also been racking up the wins too. 18 in 2010, 24 in 2011 and 17 last year, Verlander has been able to produce a 59-22 record with a commanding 2.78 ERA since 2010. He’s done well against most of the AL East, with some resistance from the Toronto Blue Jays, but he could very well fit into a Yankee rotation.

While Verlander turns 30 on Wednesday, he’s someone who I don’t see age bothering him too much. He found some deadly stuff lately and his form and control are not going to dissipate overnight. That said, Verlander wants to remain a Tiger, but he still thinks it’d be fun to have teams fight over him. I’m not so sure we’ll see the Yankees in on this, but if we do, imagine the possibilities with a Verlander at the head of this rotation. Wow.