Multiple MLB insiders have pegged the Los Angeles Dodgers as a legitimate destination for Justin Verlander, who opted out of his contract with the Houston Astros fresh off of a World Series victory.
But how realistic is the pairing? Despite Verlander capturing his first win as a pitcher in the Fall Classic just a few weeks ago, he was 0-6 with a 6.07 ERA in his previous seven starts on the game’s biggest stage.
The Dodgers famously fall short in October. Would adding someone with a largely shaky resume when facing such challenges actually help?
Perhaps more pressing, now, are Verlander’s contract demands. Per reports, the future Hall of Famer is seeking a deal similar to Max Scherzer’s three-year, $130 million contract with the New York Mets. That’s a $43.3 million AAV.
If LA wasn’t willing to go that far for Scherzer (they reportedly offered him a two-year, $72 million deal), why would they do that for Verlander, who is entering his age-40 season whereas Scherzer is entering his age-38 season?
Would Dodgers be willing to pay Justin Verlander the Max Scherzer price?
In pondering Scherzer last offseason, his injury concerns were more than likely front and center. Historically, the right-hander is a workhorse. From 2009-2018, he made at least 30 starts per year. But he was limited in both 2019 and 2021 (and then 2022) with back, neck, hamstring, arm and oblique issues.
That’s undoubtedly a worry for a pitcher in his late-30s, especially when that much money is on the line. Verlander has similarly been a beast throughout his career, but he needed Tommy John surgery in 2020 and then missed five starts in 2022 with a calf issue.
He’s likely going to win the AL Cy Young the year after he received reconstructive elbow surgery, which is unthinkably amazing, but who would be willing to pay him among the highest in the league for his age-40 through 42 seasons? Then you have to think about messaging. How can you pay Verlander more than double what you’re paying Clayton Kershaw? Maybe it’s a non-issue, but you never know. What about the fact Verlander was the ace on the 2017 Astros, who cheated and beat the Dodgers in the World Series? If there are concerns about bringing Carlos Correa into the clubhouse, how much different is it with Verlander? Then there’s Ben Verlander, the brother of Justin, who you do NOT want rooting for your team.
The upsides with Verlander are that he has no draft pick compensation tied to him and that the Dodgers’ payroll, which has just $116 million-$144 million committed to the team’s books from 2023-2026, can certainly make it work, whereas they couldn’t fit such a salary into their 2022 parameters.
There’s a world in which the cons outweigh the pros for some Dodgers fans. So, to that we say, how about Jacob deGrom instead?