I’d write a beefier rumor intro, but I have a crying baby on my lap …
Justin Verlander’s Possible Price Tag
Justin Verlander turns 40 years old in three months, but he was also just the unanimous AL Cy Young award winner, showing no signs of slowing down. So he’s going to get paid this offseason, having already declined a $25M player option with the Astros.
Astros owner Jim Crane, who’s been especially involved in baseball operations lately, says he plans on “staying in the middle of” those negotiations with Verlander until they get resolved. Crane also said Verlander is seeking a deal similar to Max Scherzer last offseason (three-years, $130M) … though that comment got him in trouble with the MLPA.
“I know him well, so we’ve been pretty candid,” Crane said. “He’s looking at the comp, which I think there’s only one or two. … J.V.’s probably got a few years left, and he wants to make the most of it. I think he’s going to test the market on that.”
Plus, “multiple people familiar with Crane’s thinking” say Crane is putting a limit on the Verlander negotiations, which may top out at two years and $35M AAV. That’s probably not going to get it done. If it doesn’t “Crane may be more inclined to splurge there to upgrade an offense,” as the team “has strong interest in Willson Contreras….”
First base and DH are also areas of potential improvement, but it’s not hard to imagine how Contreras could assist across the board.
When it comes to Verlander, I tend to agree with Anthony Franco (MLBTR), who says a three-year deal for Verlander is probably a little more difficult to swallow than it was for Scherzer, but I think something in the two-year range with a $40M average annual value is achievable, especially as the Yankees, Dodgers, Mets, and Phillies are all expected to check in.
The Yankees may have gotten a little extra incentive to ramp up their pursuit of Aaron Judge with the possibility of collusion allegations, but even before that all came up, they started to like their chances better, per Jon Heyman:
Signs look positive regarding Judge, with Steinbrenner revealing on YES Network that he’s had two conversations with Judge since the season ended. And while there’s bound to be serious competition for the services of the new American League single-season home-run recordholder (the Giants are almost sure to be in the bidding) and free agency is unpredictable, Yankees people have sounded a bit more hopeful in recent days.
Joel Sherman also has some Yankee-optimism on Judge, from their re-signing of Anthony Rizzo, to Steinbrenner’s involvement, to the potential for the “Jeter edict – never even be connected talking to another team, so as to keep the relationship with the fans as pure as possible.”
HOWEVER, they have also begun their due diligence on the free agent shortstops, as well as Brandon Nimmo, in what appears to be a Plan B on Judge. A note on the Yankees’ interest in Nimmo, in particular: Reading between the lines of a bunch of different reports, I’ll tell you that the Yankees seem to want two outfielders this offseason, but that appears to be Judge + a lesser outfielder *or* Nimmo + a lesser outfielder, not Judge + Nimmo, which would be much pricier. More on Nimmo in a second.
As for the shortstop thing, all we do is hope that the group is not seriously seen as an ideal backup plan for the Yankees on Judge. You’d rather they just steered clear of that market entirely.
Brewers Trading Wong?
When Ken Rosenthal first brought up the idea of the Brewers trading players away this offseason to save money, he mentioned Kolten Wong ($10M) and Hunter Renfroe ($11.2M) as possibilities. And it seems like the Mariners may have read that article (or inspired the initial rumor?), because they came calling on Wong:
Wong, 32, had his best offensive season in 2022 (116 wRC+), slashing .251/.339/.430 with a career-best 15 homers and a surprising 17 stolen bases. That said, his defensive metrics took an ENORMOUS drop off into negative territory, after trending in that direction every season since 2018. Still a useful player, though, and the Mariners now have an overabundance of outfielders.
Brandon Nimmo’s Market
After trading Teoscar Hernandez to the Mariners, the Toronto Blue Jays have opened up a spot in their outfield to add the left-handed bat they’ve been seeking. And according to Jon Morosi, that bat could be Brandon Nimmo, who already has their attention.
But Nimmo has options. As Andy Martino puts it at SNY, “It’s a great time to be Brandon Nimmo (and his children, and their children, and their children, too).”
According to Martino, Nimmo is fielding “widespread interest around the league,” and is already personally meeting with teams to get a sense of their offer(s). In addition to the Blue Jays (and the unknowns), the Mets, Yankees, and Rockies are all involved.
As a left-handed hitting, true center fielder with a great bat, Nimmo fits pretty perfectly into the Cubs’ apparent needs, though it doesn’t seem like anyone sees them in that market. Nimmo’s expected contract demands (5 years, $125-$140M) and injury history are probably scaring them off. Good player, though. I do wish the Cubs would entertain a pursuit.
Odds and Ends
- The Athletic has a good writeup on the Padres’ creative contract with Nick Martinez, which reminds me of how important it can be to make players feel wanted where they are (say … Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ). The writeup also has a great deal of useful info on Cubs target Kodai Senga, who was a teammate of Martinez’s in Japan:
I think he’s nasty, and I think he’s built for the major leagues. I hope we can land him because he’s really a one-of-a-kind talent. You look at him physically — the kid’s strong. He’s a big guy. He’s going to be able to withstand 162 games of playing and travel. He’s been getting a lot of workout tips for a while now from (Yu) Darvish, preparing himself for this opportunity. I’m not saying there’s not going to be an adjustment — I’m sure there is to different hitters and a different style of hitting — but even on the international stage, he’s come in and dominated.
- Hopefully Yu Darvish tells Senga how great it is to play in Chicago, like he did last season with Seiya Suzuki.
- The Blue Jays have designated 28-year-old, left-handed outfielder Raimel Tapia for assignment. I don’t quite think he’s a Cubs target, despite being left-handed and capable of playing center field, at least not as the 1A guy in center field. He’s a capable big leaguer, though, and he will find a job in a bench capacity.