Verlander going back to Houston highlights flurry of MLB trades ahead of Tuesday's deadline

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New York Mets' Justin Verlander looks at the fans applauding him as he leaves the field after being removed from a baseball game in the sixth inning against the Washington Nationals, Sunday, July 30, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

CHICAGO – In a matter of days, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer went from teammates on the New York Mets to opposite sides of a Lone Star rivalry.

That's how it goes this time of year.

Verlander was shipped from New York to Houston ahead of Tuesday's trade deadline, returning to the Astros after he helped them win the World Series last year. The retooling Mets received minor league outfielders Drew Gilbert and Ryan Clifford in the deal.

"It’s a big day when you have your Cy Young guy come back,” Houston owner Jim Crane told The Associated Press.

Verlander's reunion with the Astros headlined a deadline day that seemed more suited for the sellers than the buyers. With a handful of talented players staying on their underwhelming teams, there were no huge surprises.

“This was a very strong sellers’ market,” Phillies President Dave Dombrowski said. “There were very few clubs that were actually looking to sell, and a lot of clubs that were willing to buy.”

Looking for another deep October run, Philadelphia acquired Michael Lorenzen from the Detroit Tigers. With the addition of the All-Star right-hander, the NL champion Phillies are planning to go with a six-man rotation.

“High-quality guy," Philadelphia manager Rob Thomson said. "Good citizen. Good person. Hard worker. All the intangibles.”

A couple more NL East contenders also were active. The major league-leading Atlanta Braves strengthened their bullpen by adding reliever Brad Hand in a trade with the Colorado Rockies. The Miami Marlins upgraded their lineup by acquiring infielder Jake Burger from the Chicago White Sox and first baseman Josh Bell from Cleveland.

The AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles added Jack Flaherty to their rotation in a trade with St. Louis. The disappointing Cardinals also dealt shortstop Paul DeJong to Toronto, which acted quickly after Bo Bichette was sidelined by right knee soreness.

“When there's a hard deadline of what you can do in terms of acquiring people and depth and talent, you kind of have to cover your bases,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. “We saw last night, things can happen quickly. I think it's a great complement to our already really good team.”

Looking to salvage an underwhelming season, San Diego acquired 43-year-old left-hander Rich Hill and first baseman/designated hitter Ji Man Choi in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Padres began the year with World Series aspirations, but they need a strong finish just to make the playoffs.

The New York Yankees are facing a similar situation. They upgraded the organization's pitching depth by adding right-handers Keynan Middleton from the active White Sox and Spencer Howard in a deal with Texas.

“We know that we have better baseball in us, although we haven’t shown that and proven that,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “But we’ve got two more months to show that now.”

Tigers left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson and Mariners outfielder Teoscar Hernández were among a group of players who were thought to be on the market but remained in place after the deadline passed. The White Sox also held onto ace right-hander Dylan Cease.

“I think around the league it was much slower in general," Mariners general manager Justin Hollander said. "There just weren’t a lot of sellers this year. I think the extra wild card, the nature of the way the standings shape up and the teams that were truly out of it and what they had to offer, there weren’t a lot of late-afternoon-deal conversations that went on.”

The 40-year-old Verlander agreed to an $86.7 million, two-year contract with New York in December. He was expected to team with Scherzer for a strong 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation, but each of the ace right-handers had some injury issues and the high-priced Mets underperformed for much of the year. Scherzer was traded to Texas in a deal announced Sunday.

The Rangers and Astros are battling for the AL West lead, and the addition of a three-time Cy Young Award winner for each team should make that division race even more compelling down the stretch. With Shohei Ohtani staying in his only major league home, at least through the deadline, the Los Angeles Angels also are fighting for a playoff spot.

With All-Star Jonah Heim on the injured list, the Rangers acquired catcher Austin Hedges from the Pirates. The Angels capped a busy trade deadline by landing reliever Dominic Leone in a deal with the Mets.

Two NL contenders swapped relievers when the Milwaukee Brewers sent right-hander Peter Strzelecki to Arizona for left-hander Andrew Chafin. The Diamondbacks also got veteran outfielder Tommy Pham from the Mets.

“We felt like we addressed some areas that we sought to address,” Arizona general manager Mike Hazen said. “Most notably the back end of the bullpen.”


AP Baseball Writer David Brandt, AP Sports Writers Kristie Rieken, Tim Booth and Larry Lage, and AP freelance writer Santos Perez contributed to this report.