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

What I hear:

• The market for free agent starting pitchers is very active, and early applications from the three biggest names – Jacob DeGrum, Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon – come as no one’s surprise.

Rangers general manager Chris Young, who has already traded Jake Odorezi and made a qualifying offer to Martin Perez, said he would explore “all sides of the market.” But early applications by the Big Three could force Rangers and other clubs to focus on trades and lower starters.

• Verlander, who personally negotiated with Astros owner Jim Crane while on vacation in Italy last season, seemed a good bet to quickly re-sign with Houston. But that didn’t happen, perhaps because Verlander sees the potential for lucrative opportunities with the Mets, Yankees, and Dodgers, among others. Unlike deGrom and Rodón, he was not eligible for a qualifying offer. Because he did not get one, he is not subject to enlistment choice compensation.

Potential AL Cy Young winner, who turns 40 on February 20, could be a short-term, high-priced fit for either of those clubs. The Mets are facing losses in free agency not only from DeGrom, but also Chris Bassett and Tejuan Walker. The Yankees refused to follow Verlander at the 2017 trade deadline and missed him in free agency in the most recent offseason. The Dodgers might go after Verlander if Tyler Anderson rejects their qualifying $19.65 million offer — but even if he accepts that, too.

• Rookies who did not receive the qualifying offers (Andrew Henie, Jose Quintana, etc.) also attract a lot of interest. Some of those pitchers may get off the plate quickly after Tuesday’s deadlines for teams to draw up 40-man rosters and players to accept their qualifying bids.

Nathan Ivaldi, who received a qualifying offer, is another player to watch. Red Sox He reportedly made him a multi-year offer Among the many teams that love the best Japanese pitcher in the free agent market is Kodai Senga.


Anthony Rizzo (Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)

• The Astros have designated Anthony Rizzo as the first target of the free agent at first base. They are also considering Yuli Juriel and Jose Abreu, but signing Rizzo would serve the dual purpose of strengthening their own roster while weakening the Yankees.

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

• The Braves are not considering trading right fielder Ronald Acuña Jr. — or, for that matter, any other young player they sign to an extension.

While the club, in terms of policy, does not grant non-trade clauses, a player who signs an extension does so with the tacit understanding that he will not be traded. Obviously things can change – a player, for example, might want to end up in the end. But if the Braves break the trust they’ve built internally, the players will become more resistant to the stretches that set the team up for long-term success.

• Two other things are very unlikely for the Braves: signing 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, all of whom will be more expensive. Which is why at GM meetings President of Baseball Operations Alex Anthopoulos mentioned Orlando Arcia and Von Grissom as inside options.

No player currently with the Braves will earn more than $22 million in any season over the course of his contract, which apparently creates flexibility for significant expenses. But the Braves are reluctant to enter into a deal with any player who takes a very high percentage of his salary, knowing that in future seasons the salaries of his young players will rise.

• The chances of Willie Adams trading the Brewers are likely to be slim. Luis Urías and Brice Turang can each play shortstop, but Adames is the starting player for Milwaukee. And newly promoted GM Matt Arnold is well aware of what happened to the team after his predecessor, David Stearns, dumped another starting quarterback, closer Josh Hader, at the deadline.

A club can certainly recover more easily from an off-season deal than one in the middle of the season. Despite this, the Brewers do have other players they can transfer if they want to reconfigure their payroll. Second baseman Kolten Wong is set to earn $10 million. Right fielder Hunter Renfroe is expected to earn $11.2 million in arbitration. Both will be free agents at the end of the 2023 season.

Adames, who is expected to win $9.2 million in arbitration, is under club control until 2024.

• Free agent Adam Frazier is coming off a career-low 0.612 OPS in 602 games with the Mariners, but some teams see the potential in him as a super utility type. Not a bad idea, especially if Frazier regains the offensive form he showed in 2021 prior to his trade from the Pirates to the Padres.

Frazier, who turns 31 on Dec. 14, earned Gold Glove votes in left field in 2017, his first full season, and was among the top five at second base in 2019, 2020, and 2021. Outfield spots as well as second base and the short, post in Mississippi.

• This is my own guess, not anything I’ve specifically heard. But Matt Carpenter’s deep and enduring ties to the Cardinals seem to make the reunion possible.

Carpenter was a Roommate at a rookie ball With Cardinals manager Oli Marmol. His recent off-season transformation included a visit to Marucci’s baseball performance lab in Baton Rouge, Los Angeles, with Cardinals stars Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, as well as sessions with former teammate and new Cardinals head coach Matt Holliday.

Albert Pujols’ retirement potentially creates an opportunity for Carpenter, who turns 37 on November 26. The departure of hitting coach Jeff Albert could also boost that possibility. Carpenter did not blame Albert for his struggles in his later years with the Cardinals, but said, “I never bought (analytics) like I should have.”

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


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