Levine: Justin Verlander Still On Cubs’ Radar

By Bruce Levine–

CHICAGO (CBS) — Don’t close the door on the Cubs trading for Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander just yet.

Chicago and Detroit have remained in constant conversations about the 34-year-old Verlander dating back to early July, according to sources. With the playoff roster eligibility cut-off looming Friday, a deal would have to be made by the end of Thursday for Verlander to be eligible to pitch for the Cubs in this postseason. Beyond the pivotal next few days, the fact that both clubs are willing to still discuss a deal means those conversations could also be rekindled again in November when the offseason arrives.

The Cubs and Tigers are both continuing to evaluate minor league players who could be part of a potential deal, now or later, sources said. The Cubs have traded much of their top-tier talent in their farm system in the past year-plus, but there are young pitchers in Chicago’s system at Class-A and Double-A who interest Detroit.

Come the offseason, the Cubs would have the luxury of dealing players off their 25-man roster. For now, teams below the Cubs in the standings can put a claim in on big league players to prevent them from being used in a trade with another team like the Tigers. Past that, the Cubs would be reluctant to part with big league talent now in the middle of a pennant race anyway.

General manager Jed Hoyer confirmed Monday that the Cubs continue to monitor the waiver trade market.

“We are obviously going to continue to look,” Hoyer said. “This has been a pretty heavily blocked year. (Other teams have made claims before players get to interested trade partners.) That definitely impacts things. We still are going to talk about it the next few days. These are the last few days you can do something. You want to have those discussions, but you never can count on it. This (present 25-man roster) is probably the group we will go forward with.”

Verlander is 9-8 with a 3.90 ERA and 1.30 WHIP and 166 strikeouts in 167 innings this season. He finished second in the American League Cy Young voting in 2016.

Verlander is owed about $5 million for the final month of this season. He’s then owed $28 million in 2018, $28 million in 2019 and has a $22-million vesting option for 2020 if he finishes in the top five of the Cy Young vote in 2019. He also has a full no-trade clause, so he can veto any proposed trade.

In the present, the potential acquisition of Verlander would give the Cubs another top-of-the-rotation, playoff-tested pitcher. In the future, he could help cushion the likely blow of losing Jake Arrieta and John Lackey, who are both set to be free agents in November.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

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