Justin Verlander teases Tigers fans about eventual return, but does it make sense?

Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings against his old team Sunday. Could Tigers fans see more of him in the future?
May 12, 2024; Detroit, Michigan, USA;  Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) pitches
May 12, 2024; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) pitches / Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Verlander has pitched many a great game in front of Detroit Tigers fans at Comerica Park. Most of those have been while wearing the Old English D.

He added another to the ledger on Sunday, returning to Detroit as a member of the Houston Astros yet again. He threw seven scoreless innings, including taking a perfect game into the fifth inning against his former club. That brought his ERA down to 2.35 across seven games against Detroit.

Naturally, the talk heading into the Astros series, and even before it with Houston struggling out the door on the 2024 season, centered on the question of whether we might ever see him finish his Hall of Fame caliber career in Detroit.

Verlander himself had a rather intriguing take on just that.

"Honestly, and this isn't just some (expletive) answer," Verlander told Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press. "I take my career as it comes to me and try to make decisions at the time that they're in front of me. I try not to get too far ahead or behind, just try to be present and try to be as good as I possibly can for as long as I can."

"Obviously, I think about it,” Verlander said. “You come back here, and obviously, it has to be on your mind. But as far as signing with the Tigers and coming back here, that's fate. I don't know. That's something that's out of my control. It's an unanswerable question.”

Justin Verlander returning to the Tigers makes some sense -- but leaves some questions too

You can see the argument for why it might make sense both ways. Most of Verlander's best days were in Detroit, as he played for the Tigers for his first 13 seasons.

He was a rookie of the year here, a Cy Young winner here, an AL MVP here. He represented the Tigers at six All-Star games.

He and his wife, Kate Upton, did a lot of good for the region off the field -- even years after he was no longer a Tiger -- that won't soon be forgotten.

The fans love him, and the August night he was traded right before the deadline remains heartbreaking to think about for many.

One might argue Verlander can bring veteran leadership to a young Tigers rotation on its way up, but that would be igoring the fact they already have a strong presence in Tarik Skubal, whose feats have drawn comparisons to Max Scherzer and Verlander himself. Skubal just might be the first Cy Young winner in Detroit since that duo.

And Verlander's older now: age 41 this season. He started the season on the IL with inflammation in his right shoulder. He can still pitch, another year with an ERA in the 3s and nearly as many strikeouts as innings pitched shows that. Still, you have to fear a pitcher over age 40 could go at any time.

Finally, it's clear to see, as Verlander because just the latest pitcher to expose, the Tigers need hitting more than they need pitching at this point. If funds are limited, that's the direction the franchise needs to go to truly compete.

In the end, this isn't an open-and-shut case in either direction. The baseball romanticist would love to see his career finish where it began, wearing the one uniform that will almost look the most natural on him. But were it only that easy.

Moving forward, the Tigers have to do what's best to create the next golden era of Tigers baseball, and not just keep looking back at the past -- no matter how fun those days were or how much love of Verlander might remain in Detroit.