On Sunday, Houston Astros right-hander Justin Verlander , further positioning himself to make a run at winning his second Cy Young Award. It's easy to forget now, given how well Verlander has performed in recent years, but there was a time when teams had reservations about his long-term outlook. The tepidness about Verlander allowed the Astros to acquire him in August 2017 in exchange for Franklin Perez, Daz Cameron, and Jake Rogers -- three prospects who ranked No. 3, No. 9, and No. 11 in Houston's farm system.
Verlander has since contributed far more to the Astros than those three youngsters have to the Tigers. After Sunday's dominant outing, he's sporting a 2.43 ERA (176 ERA+) in 68 starts with Houston -- and that doesn't include his nine postseason appearances since the trade happened.
Predictably, other teams have regrets about how the Verlander deal went down. That includes the Chicago Cubs. On Tuesday, general manager Jed Hoyer admitted as much during an interview with Chicago radio station 670 The Score:
This isn't just your garden variety case where another team is annoyed that it failed to make a smart deal for a great player, either. Rather, the Cubs have additional reason for kicking themselves. That's because they were reportedly engaged with the Tigers late in the process and, per MLB Network's Jon Paul Morosi, were Verlander's preferred destination:
Cubs have been engaged last 24 hrs w/Det. regarding Justin Verlander. Confirmed he would approve deal here. Source says price still too high— David Kaplan (@thekapman) September 1, 2017
It's unclear whom the Cubs would have had to give up in order to make a deal. The Astros had the better farm system at the time, and Hoyer was seemingly more interested in acquiring Verlander as part of a salary dump. Keep in mind that the Cubs had already acquired one veteran starter that summer, adding Jose Quintana from the Chicago White Sox at the cost of a four-player package, including top prospects Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease.
Hoyer did add a different frontline starter a few months later when he signed free agent Yu Darvish to a contract worth $126 million. There's no telling where Darvish ends up if the Cubs had instead traded for Verlander. There's also no telling if Verlander would have enjoyed this rejuvenated run as part of Chicago's rotation.
It does make for a fun "what-if" scenario, however, and that's part of the fun of baseball -- unless you're an executive, anyway; then it's part of the frustration.