Rosenthal: What I hear at the MLB Winter Meetings

In recent weeks, one of the rumors swirling around baseball was that Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer didn’t like each other, dating from their time with the Tigers from 2011 to 2014.

The uproar led me to contact two other members of these Tiger teams to ask if it was true. Both said that Verlander and Scherzer were already competitive with each other as teammates, as one might expect from two Type-A aces. However, neither team thought the Tigers would prevent the Mets from signing Verlander and reuniting with Scherzer.

It clearly hasn’t, as Verlander and the Mets agreed on Monday to a two-year, $86.66 million contract with a third-year vesting option. The average annual value of $43.33 million matches Scherzer as the highest in major league history.

Both shooters are much older now — Verlander turns 40 on February 3. 20, Scherzer is 38. Both became World Series champions after leaving the Tigers, Verlander with the Astros in 2017 and 2022, Scherzer with the Nationals in 2019. Both want to win again.

• Phillies Xander Bogaerts is a reasonable replacement for Trea Turner. Bogaerts is, in the opinion of a number of clubs, the best hitter among the Big Four shortstops. He has proven that he can play in a demanding market, and can feature in another position, if needed, in the future. May also sign for fewer years than Turner.

The Padres have met Turner twice in person, and the San Diego climate and lifestyle appeal to many players. However, Turner is from Florida and his wife is from New Jersey. He thinks he prefers the East Coast.

Another thing to consider is the challenge the Padres, Angels, Dodgers, and Giants face in free agency: California’s income tax is the highest in the country.

• The free agent catcher Christian Vazquez market includes the Cubs, Cardinals, Padres, Guardians and Twins. The Astros also have an interest in keeping Vázquez, but in more job sharing with Martín Maldonado.

It looks like Vazquez, 32, will be getting a three-year deal. During the postseason, opponents scored just one run in the 33 innings he caught for the Astros, on JT Realmoto’s 10th-inning homer off Luis Garcia in Game 1 of the World Series.

While the Astros’ pitching staff deserves a lot of credit, Vasquez was behind the plate for the final 12 innings of the Divisional Playoff Series against the Mariners, a nine-run combined shutout of the Yankees in Game 3 of the ALCS and a combined no-hit in Game 4 of the World Series.

• Speaking of the Astros, they are looking at three left-handed batters – Andrew Benintende, Michael Brantley and Michael Conforto.

All three finished the season with various slumps. Benintende, 28, suffered a fractured fibula in his right hand on September 2. Brantley, 35, did not play after June 26 and had surgery on his right shoulder on August 1. 12. Conforto, 29, injured his right shoulder in January, had surgery in April and didn’t play at all last season.

• The Angels are looking to get promoted at shortstop and stay in a spending position, but their immediate focus is a way to get rid of the back end.

Right now, the Angels’ options for short are Andrew Velasquez, Luis Rengifo, and David Fletcher. The big four – Turner, Carlos Correa, Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson – are likely to join clubs better positioned to compete.

Many freebies are still available, but the Angels, like many clubs, are wary of price hikes.

• Finally, here’s Verlander’s career earnings by a decade, now that he’s starting his new contract with the Mets in his 40s.

20s: $46.515 million
30s: $271 million
40s: $86.66 million

(Photo: Mark Cunningham/MLB Images via Getty Images)


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