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The Tigers’ patience — and Justin Verlander’s resurgence — pays off

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Let’s preface all of what I’m about to say with the disclaimer that the Tigers having to trade Justin Verlander really stinks for them.

It stinks because trading a star at the deadline means that you’ve had a terrible year. It stinks because it means they are now all-in on what is sure to be a long and painful rebuild. It stinks because Tigers fans really, really love Justin Verlander and have grown really, really attached to him over the past 13 seasons. Trust me on that one: I’m married to a Tigers fan and, no matter how much she intellectually accepted the need for Detroit to trade Verlander and no matter how much she appreciates the return the team got in the deal, she’s still pretty grumpy about it this morning.

All that being said: the Tigers did pretty dang well in this deal.

To realize this, just look back to where things stood a month ago, at the non-waiver trade deadline. The Astros were the primary suitor for Verlander’s services. At the time, the Astros were cruising, up 16 games in the division and completing a pretty nice month. This despite having Dallas Keuchel on the disabled list for basically all of July. Houston may have wanted Verlander, but they weren’t desperate and were obviously not willing to give the Tigers what they wanted.

Flash forward a month and a lot has changed. Keuchel has not looked like an ace. Lance McCullers has missed a month. The Astros, overall, floundered in August, going 11-17 and seeing that division lead whittled down to 11.5 games. That’s still safe with a month to play, but the Astros looked like a juggernaut a month ago and, as of yesterday, they looked somewhat lost. In the meantime, Justin Verlander has put his foot on the accelerator, going 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA with 50 strikeouts and seven walks in 42 innings in the month of August.

All of which means that Tigers GM Al Avila got a better deal than he was presented with on July 31. Probably a much better one.

The Tigers got three really nice players for Verlander. Franklin Perez is only 19 but he’s held his own in Double-A, which is populated with guys who are WAY older than him. As Bill mentioned last night, he was the Astros’ No. 3 prospect. Daz Cameron is a center fielder with a lot of promise. Jake Rogers, the catcher, is reputed to have outstanding defensive skills and, while he’s only in A-ball, he’s shown nice plate patience. This is not the return the Dallas Cowboys got for Herschel Walker or anything, but taken all together this is a really nice package, consisting of a top prospect, an intriguing player who could be special and a solid defender at a critical position.

What’s more, the Tigers did not have to eat a ton of money to get that package. They are paying Houston $8 million for each season left on Verlander’s deal, which has $56 million remaining on it overall. That’s basically a buy-down to what a pitcher like Verlander is truly worth right now, not the sort of massive payoff you often see in situations where a guy with a bad deal is moved.

To be sure, this is a good deal for Houston too. They are obviously in win-now mode, have an obvious need for a starting pitcher and got one who, while perhaps not the guy he was a few years ago, is still more than capable of going on runs — like the one he’s on now — which can help carry a contending team over the finish line. The Astros gave up some players they would not need for several years in order to fill their biggest need now. That’s what the trade deadline is all about for contenders. Give them credit for pulling the trigger and going for it when a lot of their fans figured they wouldn’t.

Still, special kudos are in order for Al Avilla and the Tigers, I think. They didn’t commit highway robbery or anything. They didn’t just ensure a successful rebuild. But they did show some patience that I suspect a lot of Tigers fans didn’t think they’d have when the inevitable rebuild fully and finally commenced. Most folks probably thought they’d trade Verlander in a straight salary dump, but they didn’t. They got some nice players in return.

That might not make Tigers fans less grumpy in the short term, but it’s something that will probably make them feel better at some point in the future.

Joey Votto: “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently.”

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We’ve poked fun often at the spring training trope of players showing up to camp in the “best shape of [their] life.” Reds first baseman Joey Votto has turned that entirely on its head. Talking about his offseason, the 2010 NL MVP said, “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently. We did all the testing and I am fatter,” Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto, of course, wasn’t trying to say he’s not in shape; he was just using some of his trademark self-deprecating humor.

Votto did get serious when discussing the state of the rebuilding Reds. As Buchanan also reported, Votto said, “I think we’re starting to get to the point where people are starting to get tired of this stretch of ball. I think something needs to start changing and start going in a different direction. I’m going to do my part to help make that change.”

Votto, 34, is under contract with the Reds through at least 2023, so he still has plenty of incentive to help see the rebuild through. He has been nothing short of stellar over the last three seasons. This past season, he hit .320/.454/.578 with 36 home runs, 100 RBI, and 106 runs scored in 707 appearances across all 162 games. Votto led the majors in walks (134) and on-base percentage and led the National League in OPS (1.032).

Despite Votto’s presence, both FanGraphs and PECOTA are projecting the Reds to put up a 74-88 record. The club had a pretty quiet offseason, expecting to enter 2018 with largely the same roster as last year.