It is quite possible that another marquee name and former MVP could be donning Dodger blue when spring rolls around.
Justin Verlander is a free agent after declining his $25 million player option with the Astros for this coming season. The 39-year-old is coming off a brilliant season that saw him post a league-leading 1.75 ERA and 0.83 WHIP. He won his second World Series ring and is the heavy odds-on favorite to win his third career Cy Young Award, which will be announced later today.
With Tyler Anderson declining his qualifying offer and opting to sign with the Angels and Walker Buehler’s timetable unknown, the Dodgers are going to need to revamp their starting rotation. Although not yet made official, they have already agreed to terms to bring back Clayton Kershaw. Julio Urias and Tony Gonsolin will be back at the front of the rotation, but who fills in the holes? Does bringing Verlander in make sense?
Verlander will not be cheap. Brian McTaggart of MLB Network reported yesterday that Verlander’s camp will be seeking a deal similar to the deal that Max Scherzer received last offseason from the Mets. That contract set a Major League Baseball record for annual value at just over $43 million per year, totaling $130 million over the span of three years.
Clearly, the Dodgers were not willing to back up the Brinks truck for an aging Scherzer, and it would surprise me if they were willing to do it for Verlander. Verlander will turn 40 before the season starts and despite coming off of a brilliant 2022 season, missed all of 2021 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and had surgery to repair a torn groin in 2020.
Simply put, the physical deterioration on Verlander’s body has begun, and committing over $100 million to a 40-year-old pitcher does not seem like something that Andrew Friedman would opt to do. There are plenty of young arms coming up through the Dodgers’ system and arms available both on the free agency and trade markets.
One other tiny wrinkle... Verlander was part of the 2017 Astros. He is a pitcher, not a hitter, and I doubt Dodger fans would have any issue with a Verlander signing. However, it is something to think about.