Roughly 24 hours after saying he found it "disheartening" to watch other American League contenders complete trades that bolstered their rosters, Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker experienced a change of heart on Tuesday
Of course, acquiring one of the game's most accomplished pitchers and then seeing Framber Valdez throw a no-hitter against the visiting Cleveland Guardians on Tuesday night improved the mood in Houston. The Astros will aim for a three-game series sweep on Wednesday afternoon
Having lost right-handers Lance McCullers Jr. and Luis Garcia to season-ending injuries while still awaiting the return of right-hander Jose Urquidy from a shoulder ailment that has sidelined him since April 30, the Astros were in desperate need of starting pitching for the stretch run
Verlander (6-5, 3.15 ERA) certainly fills that void. The fact that he won a pair of AL Cy Young Awards and two World Series rings with the Astros only serves as an additional boost
"That improves my heart's function," Baker said. "For a guy who had a stroke, heart function is very, very important. It does my heart well
"I'm sure the fans are excited. Our team is excited.
Verlander, initially acquired by Houston from the Detroit Tigers on Aug. 31, 2017, went 61-19 with a 2.26 ERA over parts of five seasons with the Astros before signing with the Mets last offseason
As part of the Tuesday transaction, the Mets will pay $35 million of the $58 million Verlander is owed through the end of the 2024 season. Should Verlander log at least 140 innings next season and earn a $35 million vesting option for 2025, the Mets will pay half of that total
Houston shipped outfielders Drew Gilbert and Ryan Clifford to the Mets to complete the trade. Gilbert, 22, was the Astros' first-round pick in the 2022 draft while Clifford, 20, was selected in the 11th round of the same draft. They were ranked by MLB Pipeline among the Astros' top five prospects, with Gilbert first overall
"When you're going to acquire someone like a Justin Verlander, you're going to have to give up something," Astros general manager Dana Brown said. "He's a Hall of Fame-type pitcher, he's got really good stuff, he can post. He's done a good job throughout his entire career, so at the end of the day, you're going to have to give up some players to get good players.
Rookie right-hander Tanner Bibee (7-2, 3.11 ERA) will start for the Guardians on Wednesday. He limited the Chicago White Sox to three runs on six hits and two walks with six strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings in a 6-3 victory on Thursday, his fifth consecutive winning decision. He has a 2.18 ERA and a .592 opponents' OPS during that seven-start stretch
Bibee will be opposing the Astros for the first time
While the Astros made a move that signaled their commitment to a postseason run, Cleveland followed its trade of right-hander Aaron Civale to the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday by jettisoning first baseman Josh Bell to the Miami Marlins just prior to the trade deadline. The move appear to undermine any hopes the Guardians had of qualifying for the playoffs
"It's tough losing friends and teammates and brothers, but we know at the end of the day it's a business and we've got to focus on baseball and that's what we're here to do," Guardians catcher Cam Gallagher said. "Whatever decisions are made, we're going to go out there and play and compete and try to win.
The Guardians were unsuccessful in that mission on Tuesday, when they couldn't solve Valdez
"It's frustrating, for sure," Gallagher said. "We're going to come back (Wednesday) and try to fight back and try to salvage another series.
--Field Level Medi