KANSAS CITY — The Tigers have a burgeoning market for Justin Wilson, believed to be up to 14 teams. If they were to make the unlikely decision to entertain trade interest in Michael Fulmer, that market would be greater. Their incoming interest in Justin Verlander is more tepid, thanks to the remaining years and dollars on his contract.
Verlander has two more seasons guaranteed on his contract at $28 million each, plus a $22 million option for 2020 that vests if he finishes in the top five in Cy Young voting in 2019. His full no-trade rights give him some leverage over that.
In the age of the luxury tax in baseball, teams can be reluctant to take on that kind of a deal while also giving up prospects. At the same time, the Tigers have many reasons to balk at the idea of paying the bulk of Verlander’s salary to watch him win for another team, especially when they’re still making payments to cover part of Prince Fielder’s contract from his 2013 trade to Texas.
One potential way around the conflict: Could the Tigers package Verlander with one of their more appealing players in a bigger deal?
According to MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi, the Astros have been interested in Wilson and Verlander. The interest in Wilson is believed to be bigger, given the salary and bullpen flexibility, but Houston can also fill a rotation void with Verlander. With Wilson still in his arbitration years, not eligible for free agency until after next season, the salary tempers that of Verlander somewhat.
Other teams have fits for both relief and starting help. Whether they have the payroll space is another matter. The Dodgers have reportedly had interest in Wilson but don’t have the same need for Verlander. The Cubs and Yankees have needs for a starter but have stronger bullpens.
Tigers GM Al Avila went on MLB Network Radio on Thursday with former Reds general manager Jim Bowden. Asked how much of Verlander’s contract the Tigers might be willing to eat, Avila said, “We have to keep an open mind to everything.”
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck’s Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.