Arguably the most notable trade on Deadline Day was the Astros’ re-acquisition of Justin Verlander. The Mets traded the 40-year-old Verlander for two of Houston’s top prospects in outfielders Drew Gilbert and Ryan Clifford, as New York continues a reset of the franchise. Here’s a closer look at the trade.
The Astros’ Return
- SP Justin Verlander (3.15 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 81 K over 94.1 IP)
The Astros bring back an old friend in Justin Verlander, who won two World Series titles and two AL Cy Young awards with Houston. The 40-year-old left this past winter to sign a two-year deal with the Mets and replaced Jacob deGrom as the ace of the Mets franchise.
Verlander missed the first month of the 2023 campaign and struggled in his first month in Queens. His numbers steadily improved, though, and his last three starts in New York were arguably his best as a Met. From July 19-30, Verlander went 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA and 18 strikeouts over 19.1 IP.
The 40-year-old had his hiccups in Queens. Verlander’s command wasn’t as sharp as we’ve seen in the past, nor was his curveball as consistent. But, Verlander did show the ability to adjust in New York and now, he’ll head back to the Astros for another run at a title.
The Mets’ Return
- OF Drew Gilbert (.274/.363/.458 slash line, 10 stolen bases, 12 home runs, and 32 extra base hits over 81 games (359 PA) (AA))
- OF Ryan Clifford (.299/.399/.520 slash line, 18 home runs and 34 extra base hits over 83 games (371 PA) (A and A+))
The most notable piece to this deal for the Mets is former University of Tennessee star Drew Gilbert, who was drafted out of the first round back in 2022.
Prior to the deal, Gilbert seemed poised to slot into center field in Houston at some point in the future. The 22-year-old, who stands at 5’9’’, has received strong grades for his glove, speed, and arm. Additionally, his bat’s also developed quite nicely.
Gilbert is a career .278/.367/.465 hitter in the Minors that MLB.com projects to be a hit over power player. However, Gilbert looks very much like a player that can do a bunch of different things offensively, as well as steal bases.
Clifford, meanwhile, is a bat-first outfielder that’s shown plus power in the Minors. Between two levels this season, Clifford belted 18 home runs and 34 extra base hits in the Astros farm system.
He can generate a lot of bat speed and work counts, both tools that could turn him into an above-average hitter in the Minors. He does strike often, though. However, his strikeout numbers have stabilized in 2023, as compared in 2022 when he struck out about 30% of the time in a small sample size.
MLB.com rated Gilbert as the Mets’ fourth-best prospect, while Clifford came in at #7.
The Astros rotation just got significantly deeper, as Verlander is set to headline the Houston rotation yet again. Between Verlander, Framber Valdez, and a back-end that’s set to include J.P. France and Cristian Javier, Houston is ready to make a run for the AL West title.
Now, Houston did pay a premium price to get back the team’s ace from last season. But at that same token, the Astros’ contention window is now. A bonafide ace like Verlander gives the Astros exactly what they needed — a big arm to slot into the rotation.
Speaking of contention windows, it’s clear the Mets are in the midst of a reset. Max Scherzer said as much, when he told The Athletic that GM Billy Eppler reportedly told the 39-year-old that the Mets’ window to compete will likely re-open in 2025 or 2026. To gear up for that reset, the Mets pick up a very nice power bat in Clifford and an all-around player in Gilbert that can provide a lot to the Mets in the future.