HOUSTON — When Astros general manager Dana Brown saw the amount of money the Mets were willing to send the Rangers in last week’s trade for pitcher Max Scherzer, he immediately contacted owner Jim Crane and floated the idea of bringing back pitcher Justin Verlander to the Astros.
Phone calls and text messages were soon exchanged between the front offices of the Mets and Astros, and on Tuesday morning a blockbuster deal was consummated. Verlander, who won two American League Cy Young Awards, two World Series titles and threw his third career no-hitter while wearing an Astros uniform from 2017-22, is returning to Houston — a jaw-dropping development for the defending World Series champions.
Verlander will meet the Astros on Thursday in New York and will make his next start against the Yankees at some point during the four-game series in the Bronx.
“I think when [the Mets] started coming apart, it became clear that he might be on the board. Dana and the team got to quickly working with their GM and the deal came together pretty quick,” Crane said. “I did text him once the deal was done, and I said, ‘Welcome back, we missed you, we’ll see you in New York and I hope you pitch well for us … against the Yankees.’”
The deal came at a high price for the Astros, who sent outfielders Drew Gilbert (Houston’s No. 1 prospect; No. 68 in baseball) and Ryan Clifford (Houston’s No. 4 prospect) to the Mets. Like they did in the Scherzer deal with the Rangers, the Mets sent a sizable amount of money to the Astros to help pay down his contract.
Verlander is owed about $58 million in 2023-24, of which the Mets will pay $35 million, a source told MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand. If Verlander’s $35 million option for 2025 vests, the Mets will pick up $17.5 million, bringing their total to $52.5 million in the trade — all of which will count against their Competitive Balance Tax.
Brown, a former scout who has a background in player development, had said leading up to the Trade Deadline he didn’t want to make a trade and mortgage the team’s future. He also said he didn’t want to trade from the Major League club.
“It’s always difficult to part ways with players because there’s a little bit of an unknown of ‘What is this guy gonna become?’” Brown said. “You have to give your best guess as to what this player is. And so you make your assessment based on what you think his future is. And because we thought this was two corner guys — and not middle-of-the-field players — we were a little bit more comfortable.”
“Yeah, a big part of winning and success in an organization is creating the culture in the clubhouse,” Brown said. “I know how important that is when a player walks in. It’s really good if it’s a familiar face, and it’s a good player that gels well with other players. And so that was a big deal when we went out and got Graveman and we felt Graveman was a pretty good piece. And then when we talked about Verlander, we knew of course he had been here as well. And he fit right in this rotation.”