Rosenthal: What I’m hearing about MLB free agency with Justin Verlander, Anthony Rizzo and more


What I hear:

• The market for free-agent starting pitchers is quite active, and early demand from the three biggest names — Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, and Carlos Rodón — is, to no one’s surprise, quite high.

Rangers general manager Chris Young, who has already traded for Jake Odorizzi and made a qualifying offer for Martín Pérez, has said he will explore “all ends of the market”. But the big three’s early requests could force Rangers and other clubs to go to trades and lesser starters.

• Verlander, who personally negotiated his free transfer deal with Astros owner Jim Crane while on vacation in Italy last season, seemed like a good bet to re-sign with Houston soon. But it did not happen, perhaps because Verlander sees potential for lucrative opportunities with the Mets, Yankees and Dodgers, among others. Unlike deGrom and Rodón, he was not eligible for a qualifying bid. And since he did not receive one, he is not subject to a change.

The probable winner of AL Cy Young, who turns 40 on Feb. 20, could be a high-dollar fit for any of those clubs any time soon. The Mets are facing the losses not only of deGrom, but also of Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker. The Yankees refused to chase Verlander at the 2017 trade deadline and missed him last offseason. The Dodgers could go after Verlander if Tyler Anderson turns down their $19.65 million eligible offer – and heck, even if he accepts it too.

• Smaller starters that have not received qualifying offers (Andrew Heaney, José Quintana, etc.) are also attracting a lot of interest. Some of those pitchers could be off the board soon after Tuesday’s deadlines for teams to draft 40-man rosters and players to accept their qualifying offers.

Nathan Eovaldi, who received a qualifying bid, is another starting pitcher to watch. The Red Sox reportedly made him a multi-year offer and are among the many teams that love the best Japanese pitcher on the free agent market, Kodai Senga.

Anthony Rizzo (Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)

• The Astros have identified Anthony Rizzo as their No. 1 target at first base. They are also considering Yuli Gurriel and Jose Abreu, but signing Rizzo would serve the dual purpose of strengthening their own roster while also weakening the Yankees.

Rizzo, 33, faces an interesting decision regarding his return to the Yankees. If he accepts the team’s qualifying offer, he would earn a higher annual salary than he could receive in a multi-year deal. He could then play another season at Yankee Stadium, while also taking advantage of the new squad restrictions, and re-enter the market without a qualifying bid. A player cannot get one twice.

• The Braves are not considering relocating right fielder Ronald Acuña Jr. – or, for that matter, any other young player they’ve signed for an extension.

Although, as a matter of policy, the club does not grant no-trade clauses, a player who signs an extension does so with the implicit understanding that he will not be traded. Obviously, things can change – for example, a player may eventually want to leave. But if the Braves break the trust they’ve created internally, players will become more resistant to the expansions that have positioned the team for long-term success.

• Two other things that are highly unlikely for the Braves: the signing of deGrom or a shortstop other than Dansby Swanson. If the Braves can’t keep Swanson, they’ll probably be out of the picture for Trea Turner, Carlos Correa and Xander Bogaerts, who all look more expensive. That is why president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos mentioned Orlando Arcia and Vaughn Grissom as internal options at the GM meetings.

No player currently playing with the Braves will make more than $22 million in any season during his contract term, seemingly creating the flexibility for a big payout. But the Braves are hesitant to make a deal with a player who takes too high a percentage of their salary, knowing their young players’ salaries will rise in future seasons.

• The chances of the Brewers trading shortstop Willy Adames are probably slim. Luis Urías and Brice Turang can both play short, but Adames is a core player for Milwaukee. And the Brewers’ recently promoted GM Matt Arnold is well aware of what happened to the team after his predecessor, David Stearns, knocked off another core player, closer Josh Hader, at the deadline.

Admittedly, a clubhouse can more easily recover from an off-season trade than one during the mid-season. However, the Brewers have other position players they can move if they want to reconfigure their payroll. Second baseman Kolten Wong will earn $10 million. Right fielder Hunter Renfroe is expected to receive $11.2 million in arbitration. Both will be free agents at the end of the 2023 season.

Adames, who is expected to earn $9.2 million from arbitration, is under the control of the club until 2024.

• Free agent Adam Frazier is coming off a career-low .612 OPS in 602 at bats with the Mariners, but some teams see potential in him as a super-utility type. Not a bad thought, especially if Frazier gets back the offensive form he showed in 2021 before his trade from the Pirates to the Padres.

Frazier, who turns 31 on December 14, received Gold Glove votes in left field in 2017, his first full season, and finished in the top five at second base in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Last season, he played in all three outfield spots and second and short, his position in the state of Mississippi.

• This is my own speculation, not something I specifically heard. But Matt Carpenter’s deep and enduring connections to the Cardinals appear to make a possible reunion achievable.

Carpenter was one roommate in rookie ball with Cardinals manager Oli Marmol. His off-season transformation included a visit to Marucci’s baseball performance lab in Baton Rouge, La., with Cardinals stars Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, as well as batting sessions with former teammate and new Cardinals bench coach Matt Holliday.

Albert Pujols’ retirement may create an opening for Carpenter, who turns 37 on Nov. 26. And the departure of hitting coach Jeff Albert could increase that possibility as well. Carpenter did not blame Albert for his struggles in his final years with the Cardinals, saying “I just never believed in (analytics) like I should have.”

(Top photo by Justin Verlander: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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