Well, it's happened. In literally less than a year, Justin Verlander is back with the Houston Astros. In order to help their struggling rotation, General Manager Dana Brown pulled the trigger, acquiring the three-time Cy Young Award winner from the New York Mets in exchange for two key prospects Drew Gilbert and Ryan Clifford. Verlander initially believed he would stay in New York, but the Mets decided to go in a different direction after completely underperforming in the first half of the 2023 season.
Injuries have plagued Houston's pitching staff throughout this year, causing the loss of Lance McCullers Jr. and Luis Garcia for the entire 2023 season. The team has had to rely on minor leaguers J.P. France, Ronel Blanco and Brandon Bielak to step up. Aside from France's stellar rookie year, both Blanco and Bielak have turned in mediocre performances on what was expected to be a championship-caliber pitching staff. This was a stark contrast from last year's rotation, which was considered the best in the majors.
There's no doubt having Verlander back on the team boosts the rotation as a co-ace to Framber Valdez. However, as intriguing as this move may be for the average baseball fan, it could have serious long-term ramifications for the Astros. Here are four reasons why this trade will likely be something the Astros regret.
Reason 1: Age and Injury Factor
Verlander, despite his exceptional talent and resume with Houston between 2017-2022, is not immune to the one factor that all athletes grapple with: age. Now 40 years old, Verlander's career is naturally nearing its twilight. While his Cy Young year in 2022 was an incredible comeback from Tommy John surgery during 2020-2021, it isn't ruling out any future injuries to the aging star.
This became a reality exacerbated by his injury-plagued stint with the Mets. A delayed start to his 2023 season due to injury was far from an ideal beginning, and while his resilience was commendable, his subsequent form was hardly consistent. Despite starting with a 4.80 ERA in May, Verlander managed to find his footing, delivering a 3.33 ERA in June and an impressive 1.69 ERA in July.
Given his recent success, the larger question continues to rear its ugly head: Will he be able to maintain this momentum at age 40? As Verlander continues to age, his susceptibility to injury increases, and his recovery time lengthens. Will the Astros' decision to bet on him pay off, or will it leave them scrambling to fill a gap that they didn't foresee?