All Things Astros and a whole lot more
It was best described on the radio this morning thusly, “Astros GM Jeff Luhnow should be peacocking (no relation to Brad) this morning.” The deal that had died and risen more times than Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees combined was dragged kicking and screaming across the finish line just before Cinderella’s clock reached midnight. This is a defining deal for both Luhnow and owner Jim Crane and ticks off a bunch of the boxes that were question marks for the fans.
Will Jim Crane open his wallet at the critical time? Heck, he has opened it multiple times since the original Scrooge McDuck days of his ownership (Brian McCann, Josh Reddick, Carlos Beltran, etc), but this one even with $16 million coming back from the Tigers will cost him about $45 million over the next two seasons and possibly $67 million over the next three.
Was Luhnow’s love of his prospects going to derail the deal? No, he drew the red line in the sand on not including Forrest Whitley, Kyle Tucker, Alex Bregman, Francis Martes and Derek Fisher, but by holding on until the end the Tigers accepted a more palatable deal. The Astros still dealt some high prospects, #3 RHP Franklin Perez, #9 OF Daz Cameron and #11 C Jake Rogers, but they did not have to send the very best of their prospects and no one who has proven it at the very highest levels of the minors.
Did Luhnow think the Astros had the starting pitching firepower to plow through the playoffs? No matter what he said, no matter what he intimated, he definitely knew he could use another dependable big arm in the rotation and one with the ability to chew up innings, which the current rotation has struggled with lately.
So what are the Astros getting here? There are pluses and minuses with Verlander as with almost any pitcher available. He is 34 years old with a 183-114 record and a career 3.49 ERA. He is one season removed from a Cy Young runner-up performance in 2016. His overall numbers in 2017 are just OK – 3.82 ERA with a 10-8 record over 172 innings and a decent 1.279 WHIP. However, he has been pitching at a high level since the beginning of July in lowering his ERA from 4.96 to 3.49. In his last 11 starts he has a sparkling 2.31 ERA and just as important he has averaged 6.73 IP / start over that time.
Verlander’s post season performance has been uneven to say the least. He has appeared in 11 post season series over the years and in seven of them he has posted an ERA over 5.00. In the other four he has posted an ERA under 1.20. These are all small samples of course, but not very comforting.