Shortly before Game 4 of the World Series, Justin Verlander was asked about his potential final start with the Houston Astros on Thursday night in Game 5. Somehow, that immediately drew a connection to the New York Yankees.
Last offseason, the Yankees were reportedly in on Verlander, offering him a one-year, $25 million contract in free agency, but didn’t give him the player option Houston was willing to. As a result, he returned to the Astros and won another Cy Young (not yet official, but it’s going to happen).
It’s not that Yankees fans necessarily wanted Verlander — diehard New Yorkers don’t want any 2017 Astros (or current Astros) representation on their next World Series roster — but it was frustrating that general manager Brian Cashman wouldn’t out-bid the team that’s directly been derailing the Yankees’ playoff runs over and over again.
Additionally, why not offer the second year as a player option? Typically, pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery don’t bounce back until Year 2, which is where teams get most of the value. Year 1 is more times than not a wash. Seems like it would’ve been a win-win for both parties.
What’s done is done, but there’s now a possibility this happens all over again based on Verlander’s comments on Wednesday.
Yankees Rumors: Could Justin Verlander be a free agent target this offseason?
That sounds like … he’s gone? Or he’s preparing to leave? No assurance that his time in Houston might not be over? Yes, he was directly asked a question about his possible final start with the team he’s been with since 2017 so the answer wasn’t exactly going to be peachy, but this was about as foreboding as Verlander could’ve been, no?
As for the rumors loosely linking the Yankees to JV again … will they even be able to afford him with a Judge contract plus other much more pressing upgrades taking priority? And if the Yankees’ goal is getting to/winning the World Series, is Verlander really worth $25-$30 million entering his age-40 season with his awful track record in the Fall Classic?
This would perhaps represent a “too little, too late” free agent pairing for the Yankees. They had the opportunity to trade for Verlander in 2017. They didn’t. They could’ve signed him last offseason had they marginally out-bid Houston. They didn’t. Now it’s reached a point where Verlander isn’t a necessity, so how can it even be considered again unless Hal Steinbrenner is willing to blow by the third luxury tax tier?
This might be Verlander’s final year with the Astros, but we wouldn’t count on him joining the Yankees and being forced to shave his beard after 17 MLB seasons.