Oh, what could have been.
The Toronto Blue Jays were very much in the running to sign Justin Verlander last offseason, with the Houston Astros ace referring to them as "the leader" at one point. The right-hander spoke about his free agency in an interview with ESPN's Jeff Passan, revealing just how close he came to playing north of the border.
“Houston was at the top of the list,” Verlander said. “As negotiations started going, they kind of fell off. Some other teams really started to show a lot of interest. I would say that the leader was probably Toronto. They were great. And I talked to George (Springer, his former Astros teammate now with the Blue Jays) a bunch. They were very proactive to the point that when I signed with Houston, I made sure to let them know that I appreciated it all.
"Ultimately, when it came down to it, Houston had the same offer. It was all kind of ballpark between them and Toronto, and New York (Yankees) was kind of always just a step behind.”
Verlander eventually inked a one-year contract with the Astros with a player option for 2023, earning $25 million for each year of the deal. He has been his typical dominant self this season, logging a 1.94 ERA over his first 12 starts. A third Cy Young award is very possible if he maintains this level of production.
The Blue Jays clearly weren't scared away by the significant risk that came with signing Verlander last winter, as the 39-year-old missed the entire 2021 season after Tommy John surgery and only appeared in one game during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign.
Verlander has enjoyed pitching in Toronto over his career with a 2.55 ERA in six starts at Rogers Centre. He famously threw no-hitters in two of those games.
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