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Monday BP: Giants interested in Justin Verlander

Well that would be an upgrade.

Justin Verlander reaching back to throw a pitch Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Happy Monday, San Francisco Giants fans.

The Giants are free-falling a little bit, as a dreadful weekend sweep against the putrid Washington Nationals has them sitting on a five-game losing streak ... and suddenly in danger of losing their 11-game road trip, which seemed inconceivable when they kicked it off by winning five consecutive games.

Still and all, the Giants are in a good position. They’re still eight games above .500, with the fifth-best run differential in the National League. They’re tied with the Arizona Diamondbacks for second place in the NL West, and the Los Angeles Dodgers are still within reach. If the regular season ended today, the Giants would still have games ahead of them to play. And reinforcements in the form of players returning from the injured list are, theoretically, just around the corner.

Those reinforcements might take a different shape, too, in the form of a trade acquisition. And one big name has already been linked to the Giants: right-handed pitcher Justin Verlander.

If Verlander — one of the prizes of the Mets’ historic yet wildly unfruitful offseason shopping spree — is indeed available, you can assume that Farhan Zaidi is tripping over himself to get to the phone. After all, it’s only been a year since the Giants made a deal with the Mets, sending Darin Ruf New York in exchange for J.D. Davis, who could best be described as “significantly better and significantly younger Darin Ruf with more team control” and somehow managed to get the Mets to throw in a trio of quality prospects for their troubles. One can only imagine what a Verlander trade might look like ... Sean Hjelle for Verlander and a 20-day gift card for Martha’s Vineyard? Tristan Beck for Verlander and Francisco Lindor, with the Mets eating half the money?

Jokes aside, Verlander is probably the most obvious fit on the trade market for the Giants, if he’s available. A starting pitcher is the most clear place for the team to upgrade, given that Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, and Sean Manaea are all scuffling, Beck and Keaton Winn are not yet proven, and Kyle Harrison is injured (and, crucially, an additional starting pitcher would not become a redundancy when the team gets healthy, the way a middle infielder would).

But making the fit even more obvious is Verlander’s contract: he’s in the first year of a two-year, $86.7 million deal. Verlander not being owed money long term means the Giants can absorb his contract without muddying up their payroll for years to come. And Verlander being owed such a large amount of money short term means that a hypothetical trade would probably require the Giants to part with very little of substance ... and maybe even get additional assets back.

That’s the type of trade the Giants are most likely to pull off, as history has shown us. The Davis deal resulted in the Giants getting better for the rest of the year and for future years, while helping restock the farm. The blockbuster trade for Kris Bryant the year prior was highlighted by Alexander Canario, a player clogging the 40-man roster.

Since taking over in between the 2018 and 2019 seasons, Zaidi has yet to trade a prospect that felt like part of the team’s plans. Unless Shohei Ohtani texts Zaidi saying, “I’ll sign a 10-year deal with you but only if you trade for me at the deadline,” I don’t anticipate that changing this year, which means the Giants are likely bound for a deal where they find a way to add talent without giving up important prospects. Which is really a large arrow pointing towards Verlander.

Verlander is having a down year that doesn’t quite justify his contract, with a 3.47 ERA and a 3.99 FIP, with his age (40) giving some credibility to the notion that maybe he’s on the decline rather than just having a blip on the radar.

Then again, even those numbers would make him a clear-cut top-three starter on the Giants. And the Giants and their pitching lab have to be optimistic about a bounce back ... he’s only a year removed from a 1.75 ERA, a 2.49 FIP, and a unanimous AL Cy Young award. And while the streak will surely end this year, he’s had 6+ WAR in each of his last three healthy seasons.

The deadline is still over a week away, so more rumors and reports and shenanigans are on the horizon. We’ll see.

What time do the Giants play today?

The Giants wrap up their 11-day, 11-game, four-city road trip this morning with a 10:10 a.m. contest against the Detroit Tigers. This is the make-up game for the ridiculous time earlier in the year when the Giants and Tigers had a five-hour rain delay that featured exactly zero drops of rain, and then postponed the game.