Chicago’s NL team has been linked to aging ace Justin Verlander for a few weeks now, but they’re still sticking around the rumor mill as we get closer to the non-waiver trade deadline. The Cubs seem to be interested in 34-year old Justin Verlander or 30-year old Yu Darvish.
The Cubs are looking for a pitcher with a couple of years left on their contract, that could help increase the team’s depth, because the contracts for Jake Arrieta and John Lackey expire at the end of this season. Verlander would be a better for Chicago because his contract runs through the 2019 season, but the financial cost of the contract — a combined $56 million in 2018 and ’19 — is going to be a major stumbling block for getting a deal done. Especially since Detroit is still being reluctant to take on too much of his remaining contract.
Another concern confronting Verlander is his decreased performance in 2017. The aging star has seen his strikeouts decrease, he’s only striking out 8.71 batters per nine innings, while seeing his perphrials deteriorate. This season Verlander is pitching 4.50/4.22/4.79 (ERA/FIP/xFIP) in 179 innings this season.
Verlander’ declining performance, his remaining contract, and the Tigers stubbornness in not willing to pick up some of his remaining contract makes it extremely unlikely that the Cubs will seriously make a move for him.
That’s why Chicago’s emergence in the trade rumors around Darvish is interesting. Darvish is in the last year of his contract with the Rangers, and is also having a down year, which means that he could come as pretty cheap depth for Chicago’s pitching staff. But he wouldn’t be a long term addition, which could leave the Cubs with another hole in their pitching staff heading into the 2018 season; which means that it seems unlikely Theo Epstein will make a serious run at Darvish before the non-waiver deadline.
Heading into the deadline, it’ll be interesting what moves Chicago makes to add pitching depth to try to put some space between them and Milwaukee down the stretch.