August 31, 2017 was a pretty crazy night. It was the waiver trade deadline for MLB, which meant it was every team’s last chance to work out a trade for a player and still have that player be eligible for the postseason.
The craziness of that night is mostly owed to the Houston Astros, the Detroit Tigers, and starting pitcher Justin Verlander. The two teams worked out a trade that sent Verlander from the Tigers to the Astros, and it went right down to the wire of the 12 midnight EDT deadline. Jon Heyman already reported that the trade was done with just a minute to go, but apparently 60 seconds was an overestimation. The trade was verified with mere seconds left before the deadline.
Ben Reiter of SI.com spoke to Tigers GM Al Avila and Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and got a timeline of the night the deal happened, right down to the final seconds. And while the end of the deal was crazy, Luhnow’s part of the story is pretty wild. He had planned to do his waiver trade deals from Houston, surrounded by his staff, but was with his in-laws in Los Angeles instead — Hurricane Harvey had closed the Houston airports. So according to Reiter, his trade deadline war room looked a little different than it had in the past.
So, as his club flew to Tampa to play a relocated series against the Rangers, he stayed in L.A. to negotiate from one of the only spots in his in-laws’ house that receives strong cell service: the dining room table.
Not ideal, but there are worse places to set up shop in a house than the dining room. It could have been the bathroom, which would have involved stories of Luhnow making this deal while sitting fully clothed on a toilet, using it like a chair.
Actually, the bathroom did come into play. Luhnow was about to take a shower when his phone somehow found a signal and delivered a call from Avila a few minutes before 8 p.m. PDT, just over an hour before the deadline. The two GMs agreed on the deal, but it wasn’t done. Verlander had to weigh in and waive his no-trade clause if he agreed to it, and it wasn’t certain he would. Avila had sent people out to track down Verlander, so all Luhnow could do was go back to the dining room and wait.
The dining room had its own problems, though. Luhnow’s in-laws were hosting a dinner party that night, which meant that his war room was now filled with food and plates and silverware and people. This moment was probably pretty awkward.
The dinner guests were filling their plates with food from the kitchen buffet and settling in around Luhnow. “We’ve got four minutes left!” he shouted into his phone to his staff, drawing quizzical glances from the diners. “We’ve got to do this now!”
Luhnow didn’t end up finding out if the deal was done until 15 minutes after the deadline had passed. This is what an MLB executive told him on the phone.
“The deal’s been approved,” the executive said. “But, Jeff, don’t ever put me through that again. We received final verification from Verlander at 11:59 and 58 seconds.”
Two seconds to spare! That has to be a record. At the very least it’s a great story. And if Verlander ends up helping the Astros in the postseason (or even to a World Series victory), it’s a story that will go down in both Astros and baseball lore, one that we’ll tell for years to come.
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