Has the New York Yankees‘ starting pitching been a problem in 2022? Other than their inability to go over five innings per start, not at all. It’s been a marked strength, in fact.
But was it a mistake to allow Justin Verlander to return to the Houston Astros after showing early interest in resurrecting him from Tommy John surgery? Oh, baby. Y-E-S. Why? Because now you have to face Justin Verlander! Seems simple enough.
In a turn-of-events that will shock absolutely no one, a 39-year-old Verlander has emerged from a year-long Chrysalis throwing flames. The Astros have floated top prospect Jeremy Pena in for a departed Carlos Correa and have been rewarded with hard-hit balls and potential Rookie of the Year production. The cast of characters we’ve gotten used to in Houston, in recent years, remains in place and raking.
In other words, the Astros aren’t going anywhere, and Houston will be firmly involved in the AL playoff race for the duration of the season.
And, as they approach October, it seems likely they’ll have Prime Verlander anchoring their rotation, which the Yankees could’ve avoided with a slight overpay.
Seems like a problem.
The Yankees let the Astros get Justin Verlander … again.
Remember the 2017 Yankees? Now the paragon of all things right with the modern era, they weren’t always a cut-and-dried playoff team, let alone the city’s darling. On Wed., July 19, the Bombers sat at 48-45, unsure if they had any intention of sacrificing future assets for short-term gain and going nowhere.
Subconsciously, some of that same doubt seemingly seeped into Hal Steinbrenner’s frontal lobe a few weeks later when he nixed a pursuit of Verlander at the August deadline (RIP) due to the money he required, allowing the right-hander to instead walk to the Astros and begin spinning the current narrative that’s defined the end of his career.
When Verlander went from the Tigers to the ‘Stros, he was a former MVP trying to recapture past glories. Now? He’s the undisputed best veteran gunslinger. And while Yankee fans tried to talk themselves out of Verlander Pursuit 2.0 this winter by claiming it would probably take him a while to adjust post-Tommy John surgery, the right-hander has found his bearings immediately, as anyone who’s followed him since late 2017 knew was a good possibility.
Another Eric Cressey connection led to the Yankees offering JV a massive one-year, $25 million deal this offseason (after we heard rumors of a two-year offer). The Astros? They doubled that up, swaying him back to where he’s always been comfortable.
Perhaps two years and $52-54 million would’ve been enough to secure his services in the Bronx? We’ll never know just how badly he wanted to return to Texas, but he didn’t exactly take a discount to do so. Money was the object, one last time, and the Yankees refused to commit a second year to someone who all-of-a-sudden looks like MLB’s Tom Brady.
And he’s performing that way for the worst possible team.