Justin Verlander, 2017
Hey, remember when the Yankees had an opportunity to trade for an ace midseason, only to see him go to a burgeoning contender in Texas instead and ultimately upend their pursuit of a title? Just thinking about that again for no reason.
The Justin Verlander non-trade in '17 likely swung two AL titles, minimum, and the world where the Yankees end up with both Cole and Verlander in 2018 while the Astros ride Lance McCullers 'til he breaks is ... not worth stressing over, but SUPER stressful to think about. Could've happened. Really could've.
The Yankees (and Dodgers) reportedly turned down the Tigers' overtures in both July and August of 2017 because they had no interest in paying Verlander's $25 million salary and adding it to the luxury tax pot. It should be noted, too, that Verlander wasn't an absolute home run sure thing; he posted a 10-8 record and 3.82 ERA with Detroit that season at the age of 34.
But ... postseason hoss, dominant ace, difference-maker. It wasn't just hindsight.
We all know what happened next. Verlander went 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA in five regular-season starts, bulldozed the Yankees and Dodgers in the playoffs, and finished 2-1 in the next two Cy Young ballots in '18 and '19. And the Yanks could've had him for a little luxury tax payment (and it's not like the 2018 or 2019 Yankees spent meaningfully!) and Daz Cameron.