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MLB trade rumors: Cubs interested in Justin Verlander

The Cubs are interested in Justin Verlander, but it will take a lot to acquire him.

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MLB: Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers Photo by Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

As this year’s trade deadline approaches, one of the most high-profile players who could be on the move is Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander.’s Jon Paul Morosi reports that the Cubs are interested in Verlander (along with Tigers catcher Alex Avila) but the teams haven’t yet begun formal trade negotiations.

Verlander, 34, is having another down season after finishing second in AL Cy Young voting last year. Through 17 starts, he has a 4.96 ERA with a 1.52 WHIP, 92 strikeouts, and 47 walks in 98 innings. He’s got a very strong track record to fall back on, though, having posted a 3.53 ERA and 1.20 WHIP while averaging 8.5 strikeouts and 2.8 walks per nine innings over 369 career starts. He’s a six-time All-Star, won the AL MVP and Cy Young in 2011 and has finished within the top three in Cy Young voting four different times.

Verlander’s numbers would be likely to improve without having to face the DH in the National League, so he could potentially provide a big boost to a Cubs rotation that has struggled after pitching an extra month during last year’s World Series run. Jon Lester has experienced a drop-off, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey have struggled, Kyle Hendricks is currently on the disabled list, and fifth starter Eddie Butler seems to have regressed to the norm after a hot start to his 2017 campaign.

Verlander would also provide some stability to the Cubs’ rotation beyond 2017, as Lackey and Arrieta are set to hit free agency after the season. Verlander is signed through the end of 2019, and while he’s still owed $70 million, the Cubs’ ownership group has shown a willingness to shell out big bucks for premium players in recent years.

ESPN’s Buster Olney writes that the Tigers are seeking a “big, big, big return [without] salary offset.” While the Cubs can likely afford to pay whatever it takes to minimize the return for Verlander, Detroit is surely going to want a decent package of players either way for a starter who is just one year removed from being one of the best in the AL. Prospects like Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease would likely be in play, and the Cubs might need to kick in some players off their major-league roster as well.

Of course, there’s also the issue of Verlander having a full no-trade clause, so all of the trade talk may all be for moot if the potential future Hall of Famer decides that he’d rather end his career in Detroit. But he told MLB Network Radio in February that he is “too old to be part of a rebuilding process,” so it’s likely that he’ll be willing to work with the Tigers if the trade is in his best interest.