MLB rumors: Justin Verlander a fit with Yankees, Dodgers, Mets; Astros after Anthony Rizzo in free agency

The Major League Baseball offseason is up and running. We’re now more than a week removed from the end of the World Series, the General Manager Meetings took place last week and free agency is officially underway. Now, it’s still might be pretty slow for a few weeks. First off, the players who were extended qualifying offers still have until Tuesday to accept or reject them. Things are generally slow moving anyway, but that is the hold up here in the immediate future.

Be sure to check out Mike Axisa’s handy list of key offseason dates for more information. So, here are RJ Anderson’s top 50 free agents.

As for Monday’s rumors, let’s take a look.

Verlander sees fit with big spenders

Free agent and likely AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander may be headed elsewhere after winning his second ring with the Houston Astros. Ken Rosenthal reports that the 39-year-old future Hall of Famer may be open to a larger deal with a big-spending contender like the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, or New York Mets. The Mets may be hit hard by free agency in the rotation, which explains their potential interest. As for the Yankees, they could use an additional frontline starter, and the Dodgers have a rich recent history of adding superstar depth to a roster that’s been a colossus for some time. Yes, Verlander is pushing 40, but the skills seem to be very much intact. He’s an ideal fit for a win-now club with designs on the World Series.

Astro’s targeting Rizzo

Rosenthal also reports that the world champion Houston Astros have pegged Anthony Rizzo as “their No. 1 free-agent target at first base.” Incumbent first baseman Yuli Gurriel is also a free agent, and he showed signs of steep decline at the plate last season. Rosenthal, however, notes that re-upping with Gurriel remains a possibility, as is a pursuit of José Abreu.

As for Rizzo, 33, he’s coming off a productive 2022 campaign with the New York Yankees. In 130 games, Rizzo slashed .224/.338/.480 (131 OPS+) with 32 homers. The Yankees likely have some interest in bringing back Rizzo, and that interest could be mutual. If that’s the case, then the Astros may need to come in higher than New York does.

Perez likely to accept qualifying offer

Left-hander Martín Pérez is coming off his career year. He made the All-Star team for the first time and was 12-8 with a 2.89 ERA (136 ERA+), 1.26 WHIP and 169 strikeouts against 69 walks in 196 1/3 innings for the Rangers. He compiled 5.0 WAR and his previous career high was 2.3, back in 2017. At age 31, it seems like this is the opportunity for the biggest payday of his life.

instead, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that Pérez is likely to accept the qualifying offer from Texas. It’s a one-year deal for $19.65 million, so it’s not pennies or anything, but it sure seems like he could get a multi-year deal in free agency.

Multiple teams interested in Lugo as starter

Just to illustrate how much teams are willing to pay for starting pitching, the market for former Mets starter Seth Lugo is “robust,” according to The Athletic, with multiple teams viewing Lugo as a rotation option.

In 38 career starts, Lugo is 15-10 with a 4.35 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and 174 strikeouts in 194 2/3 innings.

In 237 relief appearances, Lugo has a 2.91 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 334 strikeouts in 300 innings.

Rays continue to explore 40-man trades

The Rays have already traded Ji-Man Choi and declined the option on Kevin Kiermaier’s contract. Let’s go back about a week…

Sure enough, the Rays have been active in tweaking their roster in the days since and they’ll continue to do so. Morosi reported Sunday that the Rays “are engaged in advanced trade negotiations” and that we should expect to see multiple trades before Tuesday’s deadline to add players to the 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. That is, they are looking to shed veterans from the 40-man in order to protect against losing younger players to the Rule 5.

Surely there are lots of teams gazing in the direction of Tyler Glasnow and Randy Arozarena, but in all likelihood here — with the deadline looming and scrambling happening — the roster will be tweaked at the margins instead of carved up.

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