Rosenthal: What I Hear About MLB Free Agency With Justin Verlander, Anthony Rizzo And Others

What I hear:

• The market for free-agent starting pitchers is quite active and, unsurprisingly, early demand from the three biggest names – Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodón – is quite high.

ranger General Manager Chris Young, who has acted for Jake Odorizzi and extended a qualifying offer to Martín Pérez, said he will explore “all ends of the market.” But the early requests from the Big Three could force Rangers and other clubs to focus on trades and fewer starters.

• Verlander, with whom he personally negotiated his free agent deal Astros Owner Jim Crane, who was vacationing in Italy last offseason, looked like a good bet to re-sign with Houston quickly. But that didn’t happen, perhaps because Verlander sees the potential for lucrative opportunities in it meads, Yanks and dodgers, among other. Unlike deGrom and Rodón, he was not eligible for a qualifying offer. And because he didn’t receive one, he’s not subject to draft pick compensation.

The likely AL Cy Young winner, who turns 40 on Feb. 20, could be a good spot for big bucks in the near term any of these clubs. The Mets face losses in the hands of not only deGrom, but also Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker. The Yankees declined to pursue Verlander at the Close of trading 2017 and missed him in free agency last offseason. The Dodgers could go after Verlander if Tyler Anderson declines their qualifying $19.65 million offer — and heck even if he accepts it too.

• Fewer starters who have not received qualifying offers (Andrew Heaney, José Quintana, etc.) are also attracting considerable interest. Some of those pitchers could come off the board quickly after Tuesday’s deadlines to allow teams to finalize 40-man rosters and players to accept their qualifying offers.

Nathan Eovaldi, who received a qualifying offer, is another starting pitcher to watch. That Red Sox is said to have made him a multi-year offer and are among the many teams who like Japan’s top pitcher in the free agent market, Kodai Senga.


Anthony Rizzo (Dustin Satloff / Getty Images)

• The Astros have identified Anthony Rizzo as their #1 free-agent target at first base. They are also considering Yuli Gurriel and José Abreu, but signing Rizzo would serve the dual purpose of bolstering their own roster while weakening that of the Yankees.

Rizzo, 33, faces an interesting decision over whether to return to the Yankees. If he accepts the team’s qualifying offer, he would earn a higher annual salary than he would on a multi-year contract. He could then play another season at Yankee Stadium while benefiting from the new shift restrictions and re-enter the market without a qualifying offer. A player cannot receive one twice.

• That brave do not consider trading with right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. — or, by the way, any other young player they’ve signed for overtime.

Whilst the club generally does not award 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 – a player, for example, might want out at some point. But when the Braves break the trust they’ve instilled internally, players become more resilient to the enhancements that have positioned the team for long-term success.

• Two other things highly unlikely for the Braves: Signing deGrom or any shortstop other than Dansby Swanson. If the Braves can’t hold Swanson, they’ll likely be out of the picture for Trea Turner, Carlos Correa and Xander Bogaerts, all of whom appear more expensive. Because of this, President of Baseball Operations Alex Anthopoulos mentioned Orlando Arcia and Vaughn Grissom as internal options at GM meetings.

No player currently with the Braves is expected to make more than $22 million in any season over the course of their contract, which appears to provide the flexibility for larger spending. But the Braves are reluctant to make deals with players who take in too high a percentage of their payroll, knowing their young players’ salaries will rise in future seasons.

• The chances of brewer Trading shortstop Willy Adames are probably slim. Luis Urias and Brice Turang can both play briefly, but Adames is a core player for Milwaukee. And the Brewers’ newly promoted GM Matt Arnold is more aware of what happened to the team after his predecessor, David Stearns, pulled off another core player Josh Haderon the due date.

Granted, it’s easier for a clubhouse to recover from an offseason trade than from a midseason one. However, the Brewers have other position players they can move if they want to reconfigure their payroll. Second baseman Kolten Wong is expected to earn $10 million. Right Fielder Hunter Renfroe can be projected $11.2 million in arbitration. Both will be free agents by the end of the 2023 season.

Adames, who is expected to earn $9.2 million in arbitration, is under the club’s control until 2024.

• Free agent Adam Frazier is coming off a career-low .612 OPS in 602 plate appearances with the sailors, but some teams see potential in him as a super utility type. Not a bad thought, especially when Frazier regains the offensive form he showed before his trade of the in 2021 pirates to the fathers.

Frazier, who turns 31 on Dec. 14, earned Gold Glove votes at left field in 2017, in his first full season, and was a top-five finisher at second base in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Last season, he played in all three outfield spots, as well as second and short, his Mississippi State position.

• This is my own speculation and not something I’ve specifically heard. But Matt Carpenter’s deep and enduring connections to the cardinals seems to make a possible reunification feasible.

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

Albert Pujols’ retirement may create an opportunity for Carpenter, who turns 37 on November 26. And the departure of coach Jeff Albert could also increase the possibility. Carpenter didn’t blame Albert for his struggles in his final years with the Cardinals, but said, “I just never bought into[analytics]like I should have.”

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

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