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.

Phillies’ Bryce Harper to miss start of season after elbow surgery

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PHILADELPHIA – Phillies slugger Bryce Harper will miss the start of the 2023 season after he had reconstructive right elbow surgery.

The operation was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

Harper is expected to return to Philadelphia’s lineup as the designated hitter by the All-Star break. He could be back in right field by the end of the season, according to the team.

The 30-year-old Harper suffered a small ulnar collateral ligament tear in his elbow in April. He last played right field at Miami on April 16. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection in May and shifted to designated hitter.

Harper met Nov. 14 with ElAttrache, who determined the tear did not heal on its own, necessitating surgery.

Even with the elbow injury, Harper led the Phillies to their first World Series since 2009, where they lost in six games to Houston. He hit .349 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 17 postseason games.

In late June, Harper suffered a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch and was sidelined for two months. The two-time NL MVP still hit .286 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs for the season.

Harper left Washington and signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in 2019. A seven-time All-Star, Harper has 285 career home runs.

With Harper out, the Phillies could use Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber at designated hitter. J.T. Realmuto also could serve as the DH when he needs a break from his catching duties.