Should the Orioles convince Astros ace Justin Verlander to waive his no-trade clause?

Would Justin Verlander waive his no-trade clause to come to Baltimore?
Houston Astros v Detroit Tigers
Houston Astros v Detroit Tigers / Mark Cunningham/GettyImages

The 2024 MLB season is in full swing, as the top teams in baseball look to get an early edge in the playoff race. The AL East currently features the teams with the two best records in the American League. The Baltimore Orioles are in first place, and the New York Yankees are nipping at their heels, just a half-game back. Both teams are very talented and will likely look to make a move or two to get an advantage over their opposition once the trade deadline arrives -- or, if the Padres and Marlins have anything to say about it, even sooner than that.

A recent report originating from MLB insider Jon Heyman has indicated that future Hall of Fame pitcher Justin Verlander might be willing to accept a trade to the Orioles if one can be worked out. The reason Verlander would need to accept the trade is because he has a full no-trade clause in his current contract. He’s in the second year of a two-year, $86.6 million contract that he originally signed with the New York Mets before he was dealt back to the Houston Astros last season. Verlander obviously did waive his no-trade clause to return to the Astros, and could be willing to do it again if the opportunity to play for a contender presents itself. 

Heyman recently speculated that Verlander might be willing to accept a trade to the Orioles because of their relatively close location to Verlander’s hometown. He’s from Manakin Sabot, Virginia, which (according to Google Maps) is about two hours and 45 minutes from Baltimore. Verlander’s resume is as impressive as they come and includes a Rookie of the Year, three Cy Youngs, two ERA titles, a pitching triple crown and an MVP. But does it make sense for the Orioles to pursue him at this stage in his career (and this particular cost)?

MLB Rumors: Does it make sense for Orioles to pursue Astros ace Justin Verlander?

On top of all of his other achievements, Verlander is an ALCS MVP and a two-time World Series champion. This is a guy who’s been there and done that, at a very high level, who could come to Baltimore and be a veteran leader to a young pitching staff. He’s been an absolute workhorse throughout his career, pitching over 200 innings 12 times, while leading baseball in innings pitched four times. Verlander’s 3,365 career strikeouts are 12th all time, just two behind Max Scherzer for the active lead. He should surpass that mark in his next start, since Scherzer remains injured. 

As impressive as his career has been, history doesn’t win games, but Verlander still does. After nearly two decades of Major League Baseball, he’s still pitching at a high level. In his five games this season, Verlander has three quality starts, a 3.38 ERA and 23 strikeouts. In his most recent appearance, Verlander pitched 7.0 innings allowing only two hits, two walks and a hit by pitch while striking out eight hitters.

The negative side to acquiring Verlander is his age and health. He is 41 years old and has pitched 3,354.2 innings. That’s a lot of wear and tear on an arm. Verlander has had a mostly healthy career, having been put on the IL only five times, but all five times have been since 2020. Four of those times have been injuries to his pitching arm, including a Tommy John surgery that kept him sidelined for the entire 2021 season.

The Orioles are loaded with starting pitching already, and would have to make room for Verlander if a deal can be reached. With Grayson Rodriguez looking to return from his IL stint this week, the Orioles will likely bump Cole Irvin to the bullpen, meaning the starting rotation would be Corbin Burnes, Kyle Bradish, Rodriguez, John Means and Dean Kremer. 

All five of them have pitched well this season, so it’s unclear how the O’s would fit Verlander in, but Orioles manager Brandon Hyde has said he’s considered using a six-man rotation this season. Making Verlander the sixth starter would limit his innings, as well as the wear on his arm. Many people say that having too much good pitching is a good problem to have, and most managers will caveat that slightly and tell you that you can never have too much good pitching. 

Before any of this needs to be considered, the Orioles and Astros would need to agree upon a trade. Since the Orioles already have a strong starting rotation, they will likely not be willing to part ways with a top prospect for the aging star. They already made their big move to bolster the starting rotation in the offseason with a deal to acquire Burnes, which has gone very well. 

If the Astros do become sellers, they could either do a full breakdown of their team and look to acquire a lot of prospects that are a year or two away from the majors, or they could just sell a piece or two and try to acquire just a few new pieces who could make immediate impacts to bolster what they already have. Retool or rebuild, with Alex Bregman's free agency on the horizon. The choice is theirs.

Either way, any team looking to improve should at least consider the Orioles as a trade partner, given their top-ranked farm system and wide-open window.