Tomase: Justin Verlander question has an easy answer for Red Sox originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Yippee. Now let that be the last resource they expend on his behalf, because he’s not worth pursuing for too many reasons to count.
Let’s just get the news out of the way. The Red Sox were among about 20 teams to watch Verlander throw on Monday in Palm Beach Gardens, and chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told reporters at the GM Meetings in California, including Alex Speier of The Boston Globe, that the Red Sox wouldn’t rule out anyone based on age alone. Verlander turns 39 in February.
“Age might affect the term you consider, but if the present ability is there, why wouldn’t you be interested?” Bloom said. “We’ve seen it time and again. There are a lot of guys who are up there in years who can still perform at a really high level.”
Verlander might be one of those guys, but there are far more reasons to say no than yes.
Where to start? He’s returning from Tommy John surgery that limited him to one start in 2020 and none this year.
The Red Sox already have one starter penciled into their rotation who brings similar uncertainty to the equation, and that’s left-hander Chris Sale. While he showed flashes in his return from Tommy John, he could barely be relied upon in the postseason and until we see him regain his old form, we can’t be positive it’s ever coming back.
Now imagine giving a second spot in the rotation to a pitcher in an even more precarious position. Assuming the Red Sox aren’t suddenly going to return to their days of spending without a care for the luxury tax, there’s no way to justify expense, because Verlander won’t come cheap.
That’s where the next complicating factor enters the equation. The Astros offered him a qualifying offer, which guarantees a one-year, $18.4 million salary if he accepts it. Maybe he takes that money to stay in Houston and enter free agency next year at age 40, but hosting a workout for two-thirds of baseball suggests he plans to test the market.
The Red Sox hoard their picks like a cat lady, and there’s no justification for parting with a first-rounder to sign a 16-year veteran coming off of Tommy John.
That means even a one-year offer will have to start at roughly the money he would be leaving on the table. If the Red Sox don’t plan on spending beyond $210 million this winter — and that’s certainly the way they’ve trended since Bloom arrived — then they’ll have to be targeted in their signings.
Back-of-the-napkin math puts their payroll at roughly $185 million already, and that’s before left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez either accepts his qualifying offer (unlikely) or hits the market and signs for even more in free agency.
For the sake of this exercise, let’s say that Rodriguez leaves in free agency and the Red Sox decide to replace him with Verlander. Then signing the 39-year-old who has thrown six innings in the last two years will take their payroll over $200 million, leaving them enough money to sign another Kiké Hernández and that’s about it.
As if that’s not bad enough, Verlander’s qualifying offer also means any team that signs him will lose a draft pick. The Red Sox hoard their picks like a cat lady, and there’s no justification for parting with a first-rounder to sign a 16-year veteran coming off of Tommy John, even one as accomplished as the two-time Cy Young Award winner and future Hall of Famer.
The Red Sox have tried this before, generally with limited results. David Wells somehow won 15 games for them in 2005 at age 42, but he’s the exception. Hall of Famer John Smoltz failed to deliver in 2009 at age 42 before being released. Former Yankees ace David Cone flamed out at age 38 in 2001. The Ramon Martinez reclamation project eventually yielded a 6.13 ERA in 2000, but at least it made younger brother Pedro happy. While we’re at it, ask the Yankees how they felt about the Corey Kluber experiment after guaranteeing him a spot in the rotation and then watching him throw 80 innings, only about 25 of them after Memorial Day.
There’s no reason to add Verlander to that mix. The Red Sox have enough legitimate needs this winter — a starting second baseman, rotation depth, trying to re-sign Kyle Schwarber, rebuilding their bullpen — that adding a luxury like Verlander would fly in the face of everything we think we know about this front office.
Verlander’s a great pitcher and he may very well make someone better in 2022, but it shouldn’t be the Red Sox.
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