Cubs

Justin Verlander got traded to the Astros, but it sounds like he was hoping to get dealt to the Cubs

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USA TODAY

Justin Verlander got traded to the Astros, but it sounds like he was hoping to get dealt to the Cubs

As the clock struck midnight out on the East Coast to signal Major League Baseball's waiver trade deadline, Justin Verlander didn't turn into a pumpkin.

He turned into a Houston Astro. Though it sounds like he wanted to turn into a Cub.

Yes, the biggest name traded before time ran out on the month of August — a potential future Hall-of-Famer — had the Cubs as his first choice, according to one baseball reporter.

And indeed the Cubs were talking with the Detroit Tigers about landing the six-time All Star.

In the end, it's not too much of a surprise that the Cubs couldn't get a blockbuster deal done to add another All-Star arm to their starting rotation.

The Cubs seemingly exhausted the last of their highly ranked prospect capital in the Crosstown swap that brought Jose Quintana to the North Side and sent the organization's top two prospects, outfielder Eloy Jimenez and pitcher Dylan Cease, to the White Sox.

The Astros ended up handing over three of their top 11 prospects in the trade with the Tigers, sending Franklin Perez, Daz Cameron and Jake Rogers to Houston. Perez is one of the top 50 prospects in baseball.

That likely means one of two things (or maybe both) couldn't make a Cubs-Tigers swap happen. Either the Tigers were demanding one of the Cubs' current core major leaguers in return for Verlander, or the Cubs just didn't have the assets to accommodate whatever long-term rebuild might be on in Detroit. Remember the Tigers also shipped Justin Upton out of town earlier Thursday, getting pitching prospect Grayson Long in return, who was the Tiger's No. 12 prospect prior to the Verlander deal.

Detroit's farm system is in such shape that Jeimer Candelario, who the Cubs traded to the Tigers in the Alex Avila/Justin Wilson deal, was ranked as that organization's No. 3 prospect prior to the Verlander trade.

So Verlander going to Houston made far more sense, even if Verlander wanted to end up on the North Side, because of what the Astros could send back to the Tigers.

Still the Cubs have a pretty stacked rotation and plan to throw Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, Jose Quintana and Kyle Hendricks once the postseason rolls around if they can hang on to their lead in the National League Central.

Should they make it back to the World Series, however, and the Astros are waiting for them there, it could be Verlander pitching against the team he wanted to play for the most.

MLBPA's Tony Clark: Players reject pay concessions, want to 'get back to work'

MLBPA's Tony Clark: Players reject pay concessions, want to 'get back to work'

Economic negotiations between MLB and the players association seem to be at a standstill.

After a conference call between the MLBPA executive board and more than 100 players on Thursday, the union stood its ground against additional salary reductions.

“In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad,” MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said Thursday in a union release, “Players want nothing more than to get back to work and provide baseball fans with the game we all love. But we cannot do this alone.”  

The owners had proposed an 82-game season and salary cuts on a sliding scale, with the highest-paid players taking the largest cuts. In a counterproposal earlier this week, the players association suggested a 114-game season, with expanded playoffs in 2020 and 2021. The plan allowed for some salary deferrals in the case of a cancelled postseason, partially addressing the owners’ fears of a second wave of COVID-19 wiping out lucrative postseason TV deals. The players dismissed the idea of additional pay cuts, on top of the prorated salaries they agreed to in March.

“Earlier this week, Major League Baseball communicated its intention to schedule a dramatically shortened 2020 season unless Players negotiate salary concessions,” Clark continued. “The concessions being sought are in addition to billions in Player salary reductions that have already been agreed upon.”

Clark is referring to language in the March agreement that owners reportedly believe gives commissioner Rob Manfred the power to set the schedule for the 2020 season if the players and owners cannot reach an agreement. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported on Monday that the league was considering a regular season of about 50 games, during which players would be entitled to their full prorated salaries.

“The overwhelming consensus of the Board,” Clark said, “is that Players are ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions that could affect the health and safety of not just themselves, but their families as well. The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.”

While negotiations between MLB and the players association slowed to a stalemate, both the NHL and NBA made progress toward returning to play Thursday. The NHL and its players union agreed to a 24-team playoff format for the 2020 postseason. The NBA Board of Governors approved a 22-team plan to restart the season in Orlando.

Return-to-play negotiations: How Rob Manfred and Adam Silver's roles differ

Return-to-play negotiations: How Rob Manfred and Adam Silver's roles differ

If the NBA, steadily plodding forward, is the tortoise in the race to restart sports, MLB is the hare, zigzagging across the road.

On Thursday, the NBA approved a competitive format to restart the season, during a contentious week for MLB negotiations. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the National Basketball Players Association’s team player representatives have a conference call scheduled for Friday to approve the proposal. There are more details to hammer out between the league and its players union for a comprehensive resumption plan. But for now, it seems the tortoise is gaining on the hare.

Compare the NBA’s progress to the baseball news this week: In response to the owners’ 82-game proposal that included pay cuts on a sliding scale, the players countered with a 114-game plan without additional pay cuts.

Then, the owners reportedly turned their attentions to the March agreement, which they reportedly believe gives commissioner Rob Manfred the power to set the 2020 schedule if the two sides can’t reach an agreement. The threat of a 50-game season went on full display in the media.

That move – the owners using Manfred as leverage – reveals an important distinction between the roles of the commissioners in return-to-play negotiations.

There are several reasons that negotiations have gone so differently for MLB and the NBA, including how much of the season had been played before the coronavirus shutdown, and the leagues’ unique structures and histories. Those are important. But the relationships Manfred and NBA commissioner Adams Silver have built with the players in their respective leagues have also played a significant role.

Silver, while by no means perfect, has been the commissioner of the NBA’s player empowerment era. He set the tone less than three months into the job, when he banned former Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers or NBA. Audio of Sterling making racist remarks to his girlfriend had recently surfaced.

Manfred, on the other hand, has overseen a flattening of player salaries over the past five years, despite revenue growth. He also received criticism from several players during Spring Training for his handling of the Astros sign-stealing scandal.

So, it’s no surprise that Silver was the commissioner who sought consultation from players throughout the process of drafting a return-to-play proposal.

“In this way,” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst wrote this week, “the union has, in some respects, voted along the way.”

If the dramatic clash between MLB and its players association is any indication, the same was not true in baseball.

Three weeks ago, Manfred held a conference call with MLB owners to approve a return-to-play proposal. Since then, negotiations have covered a wide range of topics: health and safety, length of season, player salaries, deferrals. The union described the league’s first economic proposal as “extremely disappointing.” MLB rejected the players’ 114-game plan.

The NBA Board of Governors’ vote wasn’t held until Thursday. But at least this week, NBA’s view of the finish line appeared clearer than MLB’s.