Justin Verlander’s injury news shows Astros are paying costly price for Mets trade

Oh boy! This could be concerning for Astros fans.

Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander
Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages

The Houston Astros are going to have trouble repeating as AL West champions if three-time Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander is compromised in any capacity heading into the 2024 season. Unfortunately, that may be the case.

Verlander revealed that he's a couple weeks behind schedule and, at the moment, does not have a timetable for his return. This is rather troubling considering that Houston will already be without Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers Jr. until at least midseason.

No one could have foreseen this type of injury, nor does it suggest that Verlander's status for Opening Day is in doubt. However, in their desperation to secure Verlander's services at last year's trade deadline, did the Astros make a mistake trading Drew Gilbert and Ryan Clifford to the New York Mets?

Astros injury news: Justin Verlander behind schedule after minor "hiccup"

The Astros paid a high price for Verlander last August. While the Mets are on the hook for a good chunk of Verlander's salary, the club did give up two of their top outfield prospects. Both Gilbert and Clifford are ranked among the Top 100 prospects in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. The Astros don't have a single Top 100 prospect in their farm system.

The Astros outfield isn't necessarily the strength of this year's team. Yes, Kyle Tucker is an MVP candidate, but allowing Jake Meyers to grab the lion's share of reps in center field is a bold strategy that new manager Joe Espada is hoping will pay off. Yordan Alvarez is one of the best hitters in baseball, but he's much more of a DH than an outfielder. Having Gilbert or Clifford on deck would've been a nice luxury for an Astros roster lacking depth in that area.

When it comes to the Astros' rotation without Verlander, that's a road that the Houston faithful don't want to go down. Christian Javier and Framber Valdez can hold their own atop the rotation, but the trio of J.P. France, Hunter Brown, and Jose Urquidy don't offer the best track record.

The hope is, of course, that this "hiccup" Verlander is referring to is nothing more than just a minor setback. If the former MVP is back on the bump and throwing in Grapefruit League contests by mid-March, the Astros fanbase will let out a collective exhale.

This is the type of risk that the Houston Astros front office was willing to take last summer when they brought in a 40-year-old pitcher with a lot of miles on his right arm. The Astros pinned their hope on a aging pitcher, and gave up a lot in order to do so. Astros fans are hoping they don't get burned on the backside of this deal.