Late-night stunner: Tigers trade ace Verlander to Astros

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
After spending 12-plus season in Detroit, Justin Verlander is heading to Houston.

Detroit — Crazy, crazy, crazy.

The final hour before midnight Thursday was a rollercoaster ride for the Tigers, Justin Verlander and the Houston Astros.

But when the dust settled, the Tigers ace right-hander had agreed to a deal that sent him to the Astros for three young prospects.

“On behalf of the Detroit Tigers, we sincerely thank Justin Verlander for his remarkable 13 seasons of dedication to the organization,” general manager Al Avila said in a statement. “Justin has been the face of consistency over the course of his career, and a pillar for baseball in the City of Detroit.

“He is someone who I believe to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.  We wish Justin all the best as he starts a new chapter in his illustrious career."

As The News first reported, the Tigers thought the deal was done pending Verlander’s approval around 11:10 p.m. As a player with at least 10 years of Major League service time and five years with his current team, he has the power to nix any deal.

At 11:24, a source with knowledge of the negotiations said the deal was off. Whether Verlander, 34, nixed it or the Astros pulled back on their original offer was not known.

Henning: Verlander deal makes sense for all parties

Henning: Tigers unwilling to take opt-out gamble with Upton

Then, at 11:58 p.m., the deal was finalized.

Verlander is owed $28 million in both 2018 and 2019. The Tigers will pay $8 million of that each year.

But they got back three of the Astros’ top 11 prospects, which was paramount to any deal.

■ Franklin Perez, 19-year-old right-handed pitcher, ranked No. 3 in the Astros' system.

■ Daz Cameron, 20-year-old outfielder, son of former big-league outfielder Mike Cameron, ranked No. 9.

■ Jake Rodgers, 22-year-old catcher, ranked No. 11.

“We’re thrilled to get three great prospects from one of the highest ranked farm systems in baseball,” Avila said in a statement. “All three players are outstanding athletes, and they greatly bolster our minor-league system. Perez was the headliner for us, cementing himself as a dominant force in each of his three years in professional baseball.

"Daz Cameron is someone that we view as one of the highest-ceiling players in the minors. Cameron is a guy that slipped in the draft because of signability concerns, but has always shown flashes of his dad’s play.

“Rogers plays beyond his years, demonstrating solid pop in his bat while having above average plate discipline, and our scouts have him rated as a reliable receiver behind the plate with an above average arm.

Astros owner Jim Crane also confirmed the trade.

“We think he can add a dimension in the playoffs for us,” he told Fox26 television in Houston. “He’s been pitching well.”

Crane also indicated that Verlander may not have been initially on board with the trade.

“He was a little reluctant,” he said. “And eventually he made the right decision.”

Tigers trade 'class act' Justin Upton to Angels

In six starts in August, Verlander was 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA. Opponents hit .174 off him in that  stretch and he struck out 50 in 42 innings. Verlander is 7-5 in the post-season, 0-3 in the World Series, with a 3.39 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 98.1 innings.

The Tigers, who are in a full rebuilding mode now, traded Justin Upton, who had four years and $88.5 million left on his deal to the Angels earlier Thursday. With the two trades, the Tigers lopped $170 million off their payroll. The two biggest contracts on the books for next season are Miguel Cabrera ($30 million) and Victor Martinez ($18 million).

They are expected to be under the luxury tax threshold for the first time in two years.

But trading away an iconic player like Verlander was difficult. In his 12 seasons with the Tigers he won Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and MVP honors and a six-time All-Star.

His career record with the Tigers: 183-114, 3.49 ERA, 2,373 strikeouts and a 1.191 WHIP.

He owns the second highest WAR for pitchers in team history behind Hal Newhouser  54.4. He is second in strikeouts to Mickey Lolich, seventh in wins and fifth with 380 starts.

He has said on several occasions this season that he did not want to be part of a rebuilding process.

“I am too old for that,” he said.

Once the Tigers committed to a full rebuild, which they’ve only recently done, it was only a matter of time before they moved Verlander.

The trade stunned fans early Friday.

“I think it’s good,” said Frank Gonzales, who was finishing a cooking shift at Detroit's Anchor Bar. “He gave us a good 12 years, it’s time for him to go on.”

The Ecorse resident said he is a die-hard Detroit sports fan, and while he's sad to see Verlander go, "hopefully Houston gives him a championship."

Down the street, working outside at the U.S. District Courthouse on Shelby early Friday, Dalton Peer had just learned about the trade.

“It’s good for the rebuilding process,” said Peer, 22. “But it’s hard because he was a fan favorite for so long.”

Twitter: @cmccosky  

Detroit News Staffer Julie Walker Altesleben contributed to this report.