Yesterday, right-hander Justin Verlander held a showcase in Florida for interested teams across the league and Scott Mitchell with TSN reported that the Blue Jays were in attendance to watch the eight-time All-Star.
Verlander missed all of the 2021 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, an injury that for many players in the later stages of their career would be the end. Not for Verlander however, as the Virginia product is looking to bounce back and continue pitching, hoping to continue his dominance on the mound that has seen him earn a 3.33 ERA with 3013 strikeouts over the course of 16 seasons. During that time, the right-hander has earned the Rookie of the Year award, the MVP award, the Pitching Triple Crown, Two Cy-Young Awards, and a World Series ring with the Astros back in 2017.
During the pitching showcase, Verlander threw 25 pitches and was sitting around the mid-90’s, which is great news considering he spent all year recovering from major surgery.
Heading to free agency this offseason, the Houston Astros did give Verlander a qualifying offer, meaning he has ten days to either accept or reject the $18.4 million dollar one-year contract or be tied to draft pick compensation if he rejects and attempts to sign elsewhere.
This begs the question: are the Blue Jays genuinely interested in bringing Verlander North of the border or were they in attendance to watch and observe, rather than take action?
Looking at the financial situation of the club heading into next season, they could afford to bring Verlander or any other type of veteran free agent starter on a short-term contract without tying up money for contract extensions for their young core in the near future (if they so choose). The risk is obviously there considering Verlander did undergo major arm surgery and will be turning 39 next year, two parts that one doesn’t like to usually see in the same sentence.
Then again, this is Justin Verlander we are talking about here. The man has been a machine for most of his Major League career and if he was able to find that rhythm that made him such a monster on the mound with the Blue Jays over the next season or two, that could be a real difference-maker from a club looking to possibly contend for a playoff spot to whether they lead the AL East next September or make it via the Wild Card. Obviously, a lot can go wrong between now and then but signing someone of Verlander’s caliber, even with the apparent risk, is a step in the right direction versus standing pat or taking gambles on pitchers with a less prominent history but the same amount of injury risk.
The Blue Jays were in attendance for Justin Verlander’s showcase yesterday but is there an actual interest in bringing the right-hander North of the border?
There are a few hurdles standing in the way between a Verlander-Jays pact, one of them being the draft pick compensation, as well as the potential return of Marcus Semien and/or Robbie Ray, which could prevent the club from spending big money on other free agents. It might not be the biggest hurdle, especially if they both fly the coop and play elsewhere next season, but until a decision is made, fans still seem pretty keen on wanting one if not both players back next year and beyond and that could limit the amount of money the front office is willing to spend elsewhere if one of them is earning a nine-figure salary. Factor in that teams from around the league will also be vying for Verlander and the competition could get pretty steep for his services in a hurry.
The Jays attending the showcase seems more likely to fall under the due diligence category, one that Scott Mitchell even mentions in his tweet, but there is always the possibility the Blue Jays could take a run at Verlander or even Max Scherzer on a short term contract to try and capitalize on a “win now” scenario with this young core.
The Old Dominion alum could also decide to accept the QO and return to the Astros organization, which makes sense considering they did reach the World Series and would be potentially contending again next season even if they lose Carlos Correa this offseason. But why have a showcase if you are planning on returning?
Lots of questions out there and while I wouldn’t be lining up just yet to get your Verlander Blue Jays jersey, it is at least comforting to know that the club/front office is at least putting feelers out there and looks to be ready to improve the roster for next season, whether it be through free agency or trade (Jose Ramirez anyone?).