Last-minute Verlander deal lifts up Houston

Astros land former AL Cy Young winner, send 3 prospects to Tigers

Last-minute Verlander deal lifts up Houston

HOUSTON -- The Astros pulled off a blockbuster trade late Thursday, acquiring former American League Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander from the Detroit Tigers.

The Astros sent right-hander Franklin Perez (No. 3 Astros prospect, per MLBPipeline.com), outfielder Daz Cameron (No. 9) and catcher Jake Rogers (No. 11) to the Tigers, as the teams completed the deal in the minutes leading up to the Aug. 31 deadline for a player to be eligible for the postseason roster.

Because Verlander enters the Astros organization before Sept. 1, he is eligible to pitch in the postseason with his new club.

Hinch on adding Verlander

The addition of Verlander cements the Astros as an elite AL team in October and provides a highly welcome boost to a region rocked by catastrophic flooding from Hurricane Harvey this week. The Astros were given the day off Friday after relocating their series against the Rangers to St. Petersburg, but will play a doubleheader at Minute Maid Park against the Mets on Saturday.

Verlander, a veteran right-hander with 183 career wins, was 10-8 with a 3.82 ERA in 28 starts for the Tigers this year and joins Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr. -- expected to come off the disabled list next week -- in giving the Astros a formidable 1-2-3 punch at the top of the rotation.

Morosi on Verlander to Astros

The Astros have set the pace in the American League all season, but have watched the Indians and Red Sox close the gap. Houston's pitching staff has been hampered by injuries the last three months, with Keuchel, McCullers, Collin McHugh and Charlie Morton all missing substantial time.

Verlander, 34, has a full no-trade clause and had to approve a deal to Houston, which he waited to do as negotiations played out, wanting to make an informed decision based on all options. Since holding the Astros scoreless for six innings on July 30, Verlander is 5-1 with a 2.06 ERA in seven starts. He held the Dodgers to one run and two hits in eight innings Aug. 20. He last pitched Wednesday, a win over the Rockies in which he allowed one run in six innings.

Verlander has made 16 career playoff starts, going 7-5 with a 3.39 ERA, and has played in two World Series for the Tigers, the team that drafted him No. 2 overall out of Old Dominion in 2004.

"We thought the deal was dead," Astros owner Jim Crane told MLB.com. "We had tried previously. He's a quality pitcher. I think he's excited to come. He was a little reluctant and eventually made the right decision. We got him for a couple of more years and the team's intact.

"I think he'll add a dimension we don't have. He's pitched well his whole career and has been pitching well lately. I think he'll add a dimension in the playoffs, hopefully, when we get there. I think it's great for the team, I think the players will be excited and fans will be excited."

Astros deal for Verlander

With Verlander and Keuchel, the Astros now have two former Cy Young Award winners in their rotation. Among contending teams, only the Red Sox (Rick Porcello and David Price, when healthy) can also make that claim.

This deal is reminiscent of the Astros' trade to acquire Randy Johnson prior to the non-waiver Trade Deadline in 1998, landing a 34-year-old former Cy Young winner who wound up going 10-1 in 11 starts with Houston down the stretch.

Unlike Johnson, who was a free agent after that season, Verlander is under control through 2019 for $56 million, with his deal including a $22 million vesting option for 2020 if he finishes in the top five of Cy Young voting in 2019. The Tigers will pay the Astros $8 million per year to help offset the deal, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale.

Prospect trio headed to Tigers

More important, the Astros were able to land Verlander while holding on to prized prospects Kyle Tucker, an outfielder ranked No. 1 in the Houston system by MLBPipeline.com, and pitcher Forrest Whitley, ranked No. 2.

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Having excelled in his past 11 starts (2.31 ERA, 0.96 WHIP) and set to team up with a solid bullpen and baseball's highest-scoring lineup, Verlander should be a mixed-league ace in September. From a fantasy standpoint, the deadline deal -- along with the upcoming return of Lance McCullers -- provides the Astros with a rotation surplus that could send Brad Peacock and Mike Fiers to mixed-league waivers.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.