Getty Images

The most expensive team in Major League Baseball history is officially a seller. One day after sending David Robertson to the NL East rival Miami Marlins, the New York Mets shipped Max Scherzer to the Texas Rangers in a stunning trade. Stunning because they Mets officially pulled the plug on the season and because the Mets are eating more than $35 million to make it happen.

New York is smart to throw in the towel on their season -- the enter Sunday seven games out of a wild-card spot with a 49-55 record -- and they're smart to leverage owner Steve Cohen's wealth. Paying down so much of Scherzer's contract got them Luisangel Acuña (Ronald's younger brother), one of the game's 50 or so best prospects. They effectively bought a high-end prospect.

The question now is what's next? The Mets have several other trade candidates, including rental outfielders Mark Canha and Tommy Pham, plus there's Justin Verlander. There's no reason not to listen to offers for Verlander now. And yeah, replacing him and Scherzer in next year's rotation would be difficult, but it's doable with Cohen's wallet. Might as well see what's out there.

Justin Verlander
HOU • SP • #35
View Profile

This is very much a seller's market. The Mets scored very good returns for Robertson and Scherzer, and the Chicago White Sox did well for Lucas Giolito and Lance Lynn. If you're willing to trade even decent pitching, you're going to cash in this deadline. The Mets want to build up their farm system so they don't have to run $360 million payrolls forever. This is a good time to do it.

Also, even while eating more than $35 million to facilitate the Scherzer deal, the Mets actually save money with the trade because it lowers their competitive balance tax obligation, notes The Athletic. It's possible for the Mets to trade Verlander, add prospects, and save money. They just did it with Scherzer. They should find out whether they can do it again with Verlander.

Now 40, Verlander has outperformed Scherzer this season (especially lately), though he's owed roughly $15 million the rest of this season and another $43.3 million next season, and his contract includes a $35 million conditional player option for 2025. The player option is tied to his health and his 2024 innings total. Getting the money to work would be complicated, but it's doable.

Where could Verlander end up? Or, rather, perhaps it's better to ask which teams should most have interest in Verlander? Here are the five clubs that should be most inclined to give Mets GM Billy Eppler a call about the reigning AL Cy Young winner.

1. Baltimore Orioles

The O's are in first place and in position to not only win the AL East, but also secure a Wild Card Series bye. They lack an ace, however, and their young starters are all approaching their previous career high innings total (Tyler Wells had his third rough start in a row Saturday). Realistically, Baltimore has more young upper level infielders than roster spots. There's no way they can fit all these guys on the team long-term. Turning one or two of them into Verlander -- with the Mets paying much of his salary! -- seems worthwhile for a team that has officially transitioned out of the rebuild and into contention. 

2. Houston Astros

Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers Jr. had season-ending elbow surgery a few weeks ago and Cristian Javier has not been as effective this year as in the past. The Astros could use another veteran starter simply for depth reasons, and of course there's plenty of familiarity here. Like Scherzer, Verlander has a full no-trade clause and is in control of this process. He might jump at the chance to return to a city and an organization he knows well, one that will give him a chance at another World Series ring. Houston's farm system is lacking, which could be an obstacle when it's time to get down to business.

3. Cincinnati Reds

Is it time for the Reds to make a splash? They enter play Sunday only a half-game back in the NL Central and they badly need a starting pitcher, both for the rest of this season and also next season. Going from Luke Weaver (6.80 ERA) to Verlander would be one of the single biggest upgrades any team could make at the deadline. Cincinnati certainly has the prospects to swing a deal -- their farm system is loaded -- and they have the need as well. Would Verlander approve a trade to the Reds? No one knows the answer to that other than Verlander, but Reds GM Nick Krall has to at least call and ask, right?

4. Los Angeles Dodgers

Lance Lynn is a perfectly cromulent innings guy and, if you squint a bit, you can see reasons to believe he'll perform better moving forward. Still, it wouldn't be a bad idea for the Dodgers to add another starter given Clayton Kershaw's shoulder trouble and Julio Urías' less-than-Cy Young worthy season. Like the Orioles, the Dodgers have to monitor the workloads of their young starters. What good are they if you get to October and they're all running on fumes? Los Angeles has the prospects to make a Verlander trade and, given their financial might, it might be easier to work out the money with the Dodgers than any other team. 

5. Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays are down to four starting pitchers due to injuries -- they've run a bullpen game every fifth day the last few weeks -- and they have to keep an eye on Taj Bradley's workload as well. One way or another, I expect the Rays to add a starter at the deadline, so why not add a reigning Cy Young winner and a legitimate difference-maker? Verlander and Shane McClanahan would be a great 1-2 punch in October. The Rays have the prospects and their reported free agent offer to Freddie Freeman last offseason suggests they can absorb a large salary despite their perpetually low payrolls.