The unusual short farewell to Justin Verlander

For a fandom that still rues the departures of Nolan Ryan (33 years ago), Joe Morgan (51 years ago), Rusty Staub (53 years ago), Mike Cuellar (54 years ago), and others, the response to the loss of Justin Verlander is striking in its lack of intensity.

To be totally truthful, except for Ryan signed with the Rangers, these other losses did not cause much of a stir at the time. Only in looking back at the trades by Spec Richardson through 20/20 hindsight does the Astro fan outrage really come to the surface. But being totally clear here, this team has just lost the “tipping point” pitcher to their recent unprecedented playoff run. They might have won the 2017 championship without Verlander, but the team seemed to be stuck in late-season mediocrity until the team made the huge trade with the Tigers at the waiver trade deadline and then found another gear after that. The Astros have had Verlander on the payroll for six seasons and healthy and active in four of them (ignore the one start in 2020). In those four seasons, the Astros have won the World Series, lost in the ALCS, lost in the 7th game of the World Series, and won the World Series. For a team that struggled to even win playoff series at all in their history, this has been their Golden Age of success.

In the 102 regular season starts Verlander made for the Astros, his numbers are ridiculous. He was 61-19 (76% win rate) with a 2.26 ERA and 0.833 WHIP. In his three complete seasons with the Astros, he won 2 Cy Young awards and came in second once, and threw a late September no-hitter into the mix.

But despite being a vital part of two World Series Championships with the pristine numbers above, the reaction to him leaving has been mostly “Yeah, I wish we could have kept him, but I don’t think the team should be giving him 2 years, $86 million with a vesting option for a third season.” It has not been near the hand-wringing that we saw with the loss of Carlos Correa last off-season.

Why is that?

  • One reason might be that the great numbers shown above are all regular season related.  His postseason performance has been much more pedestrian since he joined the Astros – totaling a 9-6 record with a 4.00 ERA. Now he finally broke through with his first WS win ever in 2022, but that was after a bit of a disaster in the opener to the Fall Classic.  People may be shrugging and saying we would have made the postseason anyway and we have other pitchers, who could have put up those kinds of post-season numbers. Why do we need to pay so much for that?
  • This leads us to another area that may stick in fans’ craw…. the future commitment to money. Which improves the 2023 and 2024 seasons more? Putting $43 MM towards one starting pitcher or using that money to improve other areas of the club and keeping some in the back pocket in case you need to pick up a fine player with a big contract at the trade deadline.
  • And speaking of money, there are still some people, even after JV’s successful 2022 run, who resent that he collected $66 MM for 6 innings of work in 2020 and 2021 after his injury and subsequent Tommy John surgery. That is just a ton of money that might have been applied elsewhere, but could not be.
  • Another thing that was a bit bothersome was the overall absence of Justin Verlander during the balance of the 2020 season and then the whole of the 2021 season. He was rehabbing elsewhere, but couldn’t he put in a once-a-month or once-every-other-month appearance to buck up the troops?
  • And perhaps some wish he would have given another discount to the team that carried that $66 MM on their backs in this new contract. But no.
  • Some fans understandably can’t see giving a pitcher of his age that much money, especially a pitcher, who just came off the TJ surgery.

Maybe, a fan base that has seen Correa, George Springer, Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and so many others move on, has built up a bit of a callous relative to these types of losses. We are told it is only a business and we are treating it that way ourselves.

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50 comments on “The unusual short farewell to Justin Verlander

  1. Well first – the lack of utter doom may come from the fact that I am not sure we even make the playoffs in some of those years without him but I am certain this roster can and will, for a long time. A fan’s desperation probably comes from that feeling of, well it was a nice run, but its over now. But its not.

    Another reason probably deals with his lackluster playoff track record. We might have actually been even better than 11-2 in that postseason run if he doesn’t pitch. That’s a weird thing to say about a sure fire HoFer.

    I wasn’t concerned about the money until we added Abreu. That pretty much locked it out because we are only about 35M shy of the tax now and the Astros are still looking at a C and OF to add.

    I don’t concern myself with the lost money – it was probably an insured contract. How much of it was, how much did the Astros actually pay, I don’t know that is public, but I am sure it wasn’t 66M.

    I think we even brought up that he wasn’t there in the Atlanta series. There was no reason for him to not to show up for at least the home games. Besides, Kate always cheers everyone up.

    He doesn’t owe anyone anything. He did his job. He missed 2 seasons and still led the team in wins in his 6 years, brought home 2 Cy Youngs, and is probably THE reason we were even in the playoffs 2 of those years. If someone is willing to give a 40 year old 130 million, 86.66 guaranteed, any of us would take it too.

    We’ve always seen indicators that JV is about JV. It’s not a big deal because he doesn’t cause trouble, shows up to work, and does his thing. He doesn’t owe anyone mentorship, friendship, stewardship, he is paid to take the ball every 5th day and be the best guy on the field that day. He did that. No doom and gloom here, but I won’t give a heartfelt goodbye either because he doesn’t care for it. It was nice of him to call Crane and give him a chance to match it, even though he knew they wouldn’t.

    TBH- you may call me crazy, but I am more worried about Aledmys and who takes that place on the roster that can play 2B, SS, 3B, LF and hit well enough at times. Hensley is probably a downgrade though I think he MIGHT handle the stick better.

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    • A couple things here Steven
      – I should have also said – the fact that we went to the ALCS and the WS in the two seasons JV missed gives us confidence we can succeed without him. Let’s face it – if McCullers does not go down in the playoffs we may well have won in 2021.
      And relative to Aledmys – he did well at all those positions, but……he was not reliable – just missed way too many games. We may have to have a couple guys combine off the bench to cover for Diaz, but we already had to cover for him when he was missing half the season.

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  2. Something you probably seen a lot of Dan as I definitely have and I think it’s beginning to apply to the sports world (baseball in this case) too. When an employee takes an offer an goes to another company there may be an initial (sad/glad to see you go) and within a very short period of time nobody cares anymore. In fact you may never see that person again or if you do it’s not like it used to be.
    Same for baseball. Thanks for what you did for us JV, Correa, Cole, Springer, Keuchel, Morton, etc. but it’s a business and time to move on. We are probably becoming more anesthetized to the whole deal about players who started their career here and then decided for whatever reason to go elsewhere. It almost always revolves around money. The business world may be a little different but not by much.

    If memory serves me correctly, Colorado offered Biggio more than we paid him but he wanted to stay in Houston. Today that’s a rarity so we might as well get used to it. I suspect we’ll lose quite a few players when they approach free agency because the money seems to get more and more ridiculous every day. The only thing that will stop it is a salary cap but don’t look for that to happen until attendance starts to diminish big time and owners start losing money. I looked at the some of the payrolls for 2023 on Spot Trac and it’s bordering on insanity (Mets projected payroll of $280MM; AAV – 304MM, NYY – $248MM; AAV 261MM). Our hometown Astros are 180mm and 197mm respectively. Which goes to show you that money does not buy happiness or in this case a World Series title.

    As in the case of Verlander, did we ever think he was going to hang around when somebody was willing to pay him that kind of money? I don’t think so but I do wonder (rarely) if Correa, Springer, and Keuchel (to a lesser extent)stay up at night wondering what if I had stayed with the Astros? Guess we’ll never know.

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  3. I am all grown up now. These guys aren’t my heroes anymore. I root for them while they are here, and forget them when they move on. I love the game, but the players? They are just in it for the money and the ego. More power to them -but no tears when they cash the multi-million dollar checks and laugh all the way to the bank.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with so much that has already been said, but personally find that when a player moves due to management decision it bothers me far more than a player signing elsewhere for a bigger check. I think bringing him back to Houston would have benefited Verlander more than it benefited the Astros. I would have been happy to take that deal though…he’s been amazing. I recall many of us wanting Correa back, but don’t recall too many shedding tears that he was going to Minnesota. I’m still disappointed that the Astros let Morton get away. I am convinced we would not only have beaten Washington in fewer than 7 games, but also taken down the Rays in 2020 to earn a chance to beat the Dodgers again. In terms of 2023, I do agree with Steven that losing a versatile guy like Diaz hurts. It would be nice to have a backup plan other than throwing Dubon out there if someone key gets hurt.

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    • Oh I am 100% on that Devin. I have always thought that if the Astros had just pony’d up for Morton, we would have 3, maybe 4 WS titles in this 6 year run. Correa, Cole, Springer, I was not heartbroken (OK, Springer a little). Morton, I felt like that was a mistake. Guy is a big game pitcher, and we needed more than Greinke against Washington, and Atlanta needed more than 1 good start to happen to change the momentum.

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  5. I did not see 8 years coming for Nimmo. At this point though, 162 million does not shock me. There are some teams that signed up for contracts that just won’t work out. And that’s good for the Astros down the road.

    Justin Verlander was a great regular season pitcher for the Astros. Our best ever. I think he got us over the hump in 2017, showing a relatively young team how to win.

    But the guy is a businessman. Yeah he loves to pitch, but he made a 142 million dollars off the Astros over 3 plus seasons of actual pitching. The Astros provided him with the best possible working environment, with the best baseball team in the game behind him, one in which he could come and go as he pleased, earning 66 of those million while essentially away from the office.

    And being the businessman he is, he’s gone again the highest bidder. This after a great two year contract of 33 million a season negotiated directly between him and Jim Crane. And then Crane gave him 25 more million as he came off two years in rehab. So Verlander was taken care of by the Astro organization.

    He’s gone. And yes, I hope he shows signs of age making this latest deal a bad one for the Mets. Perhaps it’s too simplistic, but Justin Verlander is now the enemy to me. I hope he gets a start in June when the Mets come to town. And I hope we knock him out of the game in the third inning.

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  6. I think the reason why there was/is little whining is because we are resigned to the fact that the Astros have developed a formula for success outside of the new baseball norm for success. The new norm is to spend huge amounts of money for long term deals for signature players who have a financial goal of being at the top of the pay scale.
    There are rules to follow in the Astros system:
    -Tie up young, good players in their prime years. This keeps spending more fluid, makes planning for the future easier, and keeps top prospects excited about their future with the club.
    -Don’t give up draft picks by signing players with QO’s.
    -Fill in big holes with complementary players with reasonable contracts.
    -Add draft picks by letting players go who want to be the highest paid players in baseball and whose time with the team is up.
    – Develop good players within your system and add one or two of them to your team per season to keep it refreshed.
    -Use the trade deadline to get your team to the goal line and, hopefully over the goal line.
    -Find relievers whose baseline is two good pitches, with one of them being heat. Let players like Bryan Abreu be an example to show patience with players like Enoli Paredes.
    -Use the international free agent system to its maximum by great scouting and development.
    -Don’t waste money by paying posting fees for players who have been developed in AAA leagues overseas.

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    • All very good points. Seems exactly what this franchise has done.

      We probably have had some degree of luck combined with some really good scouting and resource allocation in the Central/South America countries. I don’t know exactly when they are going to be forced into the draft – it’s coming – but until then, keep that market on lock down. Framber, Altuve, Urquidy, Garcia, Alvarez (though his was a trade, it was a trade at 16 after one of our scouts insisted to Luhnow we needed the guy), the core of this team is affordable 25-26 year olds that we picked up there.

      The question is 4 years from now. They won’t all still be here. Is that generation of international pool of players we have run into that is this team a one time luck of the draw thing to get this much talent at once, or have we figured out that part and we are just going to keep replacing them one at a time that are not here long term?

      I have often thought that Dusty was here partly because he is baseball royalty that could help calm the storm of post scandal, but also because he is fluent in Spanish, and that is probably used in the clubhouse more than English with this team.

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  7. To be honest, despite that I should definitely know better by now, there are still a few players to whom I have let myself become attached, and whom I truly grieved to see leave in FA (or get traded) to another team. One in recent years was Lance Berkman; another was George Springer; still another was Charlie Morton. I tend to let the attachment build with players that appear (t0 me, at least) to be ‘team’ players as opposed to prima donnas who showboat, behave disrespectfully and/or profanely toward others, and are clearly out for themselves. That explains why I did not grieve at all for Carlos Correa, Dallas Keuchel, or Gerrit Cole, and why I did not grieve for a millisecond over the departure of Justin Verlander. Those guys don’t owe me – or Houston -anything, of course; but neither do I owe them anything when they take off for greener pastures.

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  8. I try to find a similar baseball scenario to compare the Astros/Velander relationship to and have failed.
    The Astros were struggling to get over the rebuild hump and Verlander was struggling in Detroit.
    They both seemed to have found their wings with the match and it just took off. Verlander got everything he wanted out of his time with Houston and the Astros got everything they needed from Verlander.
    With the arrival of Steve Cohen and the new CBA that always was going to favor the wealthy clubs and the wealthy players, the Astros/ Verlander parnership has reach it’s predictable conclusion, especially with Verlander’s stated preference to pitch into his mid-40’s.
    It has been a great partnership, carried on by a good personal relationship between Jim Crane and Justin Verlander, which created the final piece of the 2022 WS puzzle. Everybody got rings, awards, rewards, fame, parades and hopes for the future out of this relationship and now it has come to a friendly, respectful end.
    If only more relationships could be like this.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Well, I think my post was not very stirring, Mr. Bill. Folks apparently were happy with what Verlander brought to the table, but happy to go on without him. I need to throw something else together….

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  10. Verlander was great while we had him, but it’s no surprise that our owner did not overbid for his services this time.

    Crane to JV:

    Last Christmas I gave you my wallet
    But the very next playoffs you gave runs away
    This year, to save me from tears
    I’ll give it to someone special

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  11. Daulton Varsho does not excite. I guess he is a back up C that will spend more time in the OF, but as a hitter he doesn’t excite me. Oh, and he would be cheap for next 3 years. Still, I am finding myself yawning.

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    • To me it sure depends on what he would cost us. I like that he plays solid outfield. I like that he’s got a .781 lifetime OPS and a .261 BABip against righty pitching. Plenty of swinging and missing. Overall though, I think he improves the team.

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  12. A pure platoon with Varsho and Chas in center would provide a solid OPS between the two guys and give us quality defense in the middle of the outfield. That also puts a third catcher on the roster. It gives us three young, athletic guys in the outfield late in games. And Brantley could still come back to left to keep Yordan from playing too much out in left. I’d rather see this scenario than one that includes Benintendi.

    And I’m still not convinced Lee gets a job over Diaz.

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  13. Some facts:
    -Only one of the Mets, Phillies, Braves, Padres and Dodgers are going to make it to the WS. There is a slight chance that none of them will.
    -The A’s liked what they got from the Brewers and the Braves more than what they would have gotten from Houston.
    – The Astros offers for Vasquez, Contreras and Murphy were not what others were willing to give. That is probably not a bad thing.
    – Maldonado will play better without a hernia or a broken hand.
    – It is easier to determine your needs at the trade deadline than it is in December.
    – Brantley was in Las Vegas to attend the WWE event with a number of Astros players. That group of players included Carlos Correa and Astros LMJ, Bregman and Hensley. Did I miss anyone?

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  14. By the way, JP France was added to the Astros 40-man because he was one of the best starting pitchers in the PCL in 2022.
    The average ERA of all pitchers in the PCL was 5.40 and France’s ERA was 3.90, way better than average. He was second in the league in striking out batters, just a few more than Hunter Brown.

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    • I like France. How can you not like a career mark of 11.0 K/9 while spending his time throwing multiple innings as a starter/tandem guy. He also has 4.1 BB/9 but people have been successful at that rate before (LMJ had 4.2 one year and was 7th in the Cy balloting!).

      He is 27, a little long in the tooth for a prospect. Now, he played college until 23 and has the lost covid season in there, so there is that. I think France is in a great spot. He will certainly open at AAA but the first time the Astros need a 7th guy to make a start he will probably be that guy. He doesn’t need to be a rotation piece, be depth. Focus on strikes. Keep your K stuff working. Given his swing and miss component he could also be a good BP piece at some point in the season.

      Not to mention, he works at the stache game. Been a while since one of those was around the Astros clubhouse.

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  15. I personally am reconciled to starting 2023 with the team we now have. If we add another bat or two between now and ST, I hope it is Brantley/Gurriel. That will give us an offense in the upper third of the league – assuming we stay relatively healthy. What we can’t afford to do is compromise any more starting pitching.

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    • Didn’t see the prospect #’s on the players involved but I did look at stats if that meant anything. Maybe very early in the game but nothing jumped out as fantastic except for Conteras as he had very respectable #’s, an all star appearance and a 2.7 WAR. Maybe others have a different take?

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  16. I have to apologize folks – we have a non-Covid illness running around the house – so I am barely functioning
    I will try to pop something quick out tomorrow but not promising

    Liked by 1 person

    • Get well soon! Have somebody from the Texans come in and tackle that illness. On second thought you might want the Houston Cougars to give it a go. The have a better record.

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    • Hang in there Dan. I was thinking about starting an over-under pool on how many games Correa will play over the next 13 years, but I’m not sure how many of us will still be around after the 2035 season to collect.

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    • Dan, are you saying the Astros have not made any additional moves due to your illness? That explains just why Crane was so quick to move on from Click without a replacement in house.

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      • It’s tough for a team to make decisions when their Yoda is sick. Maybe they will pick up the pace next week when I return to the active roster?

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  17. How in the world does the Carlos Correa deal make financial sense for the Giants organization? It doesn’t. It won’t. It is utter craziness.

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    • Apparently some owners are not worried about writing off 100 million dollars or more on a Correa type deal. If SF gets 8 more good years out of him they should be happy. He’ll be at first base when he’s 35.

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    • None of the articles I’ve found specified what the actual payments will be during each season. The impact to the Giants is just under $28M per year on their luxury tax, regardless. Rumors are out there that MLB would have vetoed an offer from the Padres to Judge that had some funny business in it related to number of years to keep that average value down. I think Correa primarily wanted to pass Lindor and this was his only option. It surprised me that he is signing a deal without any opt-outs. Even though it has a no trade clause I would be shocked if the Giants don’t end up trying to trade him at some point.

      So what sense does it make? I don’t know…I think the Giants are going to be mediocre to bad for an extended time period. He certainly doesn’t turn them into a contender.

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  18. Every time a deal like the Correa deal occurs, it makes the World Champion Astros look more brilliant and encourages more teams to go out and spend more money to try and catch up to them.
    And if the Astros make the next three moves correctly, the teams that are spending stupid money may be grinding their teeth down further this time next year.

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