The boost Justin Verlander gave the 2017 Astros — nine wins, a 1.66 ERA, 81 strikeouts and 0.74 WHIP in 10 starts spanning early September to October — were essential to the franchise’s only World Series title.
In the wake of Major League Baseball’s announcement Thursday that it will begin implementing significant rule changes this season, including making July 31 the deadline for any trade, general manager Jeff Luhnow, the architect of the last-hour agreement that brought Verlander from Detroit to Houston had a breathtaking thought: “I don’t think that happens.”
Knowing he’d instantly multiplied the Astros’ chances of a championship on that Aug. 31 night, Luhnow was inspired to pour himself a Tito’s and soda with lime. The magical two months that followed were possible only because Verlander and the Astros were able to wait past July 31 and use the waiver-trade deadline a month later to pull off baseball’s most significant August deal in recent memory.
“At the end of July,” Luhnow said, recalling the circumstances in 2017, “Justin may have felt that there were other options for him if he waited. By the time he got to the end of August, he knew there were only two options: staying in Detroit or going to Houston.”
As for the Astros, Luhnow said they needed to watch Verlander surge for another month — he had a 2.36 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 42 August innings — to convince themselves they needed to get him and pay handsomely for his services.