So! Remember when everyone was maybe hoping to get a little free agent move once the winter meetings started? Consider these hopes fulfilled! By the end of the second afternoon game of the World Cup, two of baseball’s biggest names had reached huge deals, with the Mets agreeing to right-hander Justin Verlander on a two-year contract from worth $86 million (with a third-year vesting option), according to a source. Not to be outdone, their division rivals in Philadelphia have turned around and agreed to a deal with shortstop Trea Turner that will be worth $300 million over 11 years … with a no-trade clause, a reporter says. source at MLB.com.
Your heads are spinning. Our heads are spinning. And that’s only day 1! Here are 11 takeaways from a wild, wild start to winter gatherings.
1. Phillies fans have their next decade locked up!
In 2031, my fifth-grade son will be in the first year of college. We will have already had two presidential elections and we are preparing for a third. That’s more than two men’s World Cups from now – we don’t even know where this 2030 World Cup will take place. The Los Angeles Olympics will already be three years in our rearview mirror. And one more thing: we know Bryce Harper and Turner will both be nearing 40 and (unless they waive their no-trade clauses) will be playing for the Philadelphia Phillies. It’s fair to say that you can comfortably invest in a shirt, although you may not be able to adapt to it by the time either player leaves.
2. Carlos Rodón is probably smiling.
Well, the top two pitchers (Jacob deGrom and Verlander) are out of the market, so if you’re a team desperate for a high-end starter, then Rodón is the last guy sitting at the bar. Jon Heyman of the New York Post recently reported that Rodón was looking for a six-year contract at $30 million a year, and that was before Verlander signed for $43 million a year. Rodón isn’t the pitcher Verlander or deGrom are, and he’s only pitched over 140 innings twice in his career, but he’s got the best stuff left on the market, which means his price, almost certainly, just increased.
3. These shortstops are probably smiling even more.
The general assumption was that the other three high-end shortstops in the market — Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson — would wait to see what Turner got before taking their own negotiations very seriously. After all, why not wait to see what the market will bear? Well, now we know: it can handle a lot! $300 million over 11 years is quite a number, in dollars obviously, but especially in years – Turner turns 30 in June, after all. Of those shortstops, only Bogaerts is older than Turner, which should make all three of them feel pretty good.
4. Max Scherzer has a more logical running mate…and possibly a new contract target.
As great as the deGrom/Scherzer combo was, it was a bit of a tonal disconnect: deGrom is amazing and throws hard like Scherzer, but he’s never been particularly durable, let alone how intimidating and competitive he is. Scherzer is. You know who is, though? Verlandais. Having these two back to back on a weekend streak looks like an unofficial, perpetual battle that awaits more K tonight. Not for nothing, by the way, but Scherzer has an opt-out after the 2023 season, if he wants to take it. Could he get more than the $43.3 million he’s supposed to earn? Now that this agreement exists, maybe!
5. The Braves need to sweat a little.
The Braves and Mets, you may recall, had a rather spirited pennant race in 2022, one the Braves barely won, thanks to a series sweep in the final week of the season. Both teams ended up tied with 101 wins and, well, it’s fair to wonder if the Mets could have made up that game had they had Verlander on their team. (He would have thrown more than deGrom, at least.) The Braves may be losing their shortstop but are otherwise still pretty stacked. But if it is again a single series in 23… Will they be able to beat Verlander and Scherzer? Oh, and now they’re getting it both ways, because those third-place Phillies (and NL pennant winners) just came out and got the best shortstop on the market. In other words: the NL East looks like the division with the traditional arms race, not the AL East, as it usually does.
6. Shohei Ohtani may have lost a suitor, either at the trade deadline or next year.
The Angels said they weren’t trading him, and it’s probably safe to believe them: after all, they could still be a playoff team. But when we all wrote our articles about “potential Ohtani suitors” this offseason, the Mets were still at the top of the list. But even though the Mets have shown a willingness to handle a big payroll, do they really have the stomach to trade whatever it takes to get Ohtani besides trying to sign him for an extension, while spending the big price on Scherzer and Verlander?
7. Buck Showalter will never have a better shot.
With the Astros winning the World Series, Dusty Baker ended his reign as the winningest active manager to ever win a World Series. Guess who’s next on that list? That’s right, it’s Showalter, who is 19th on the all-time win list and has the third-most wins of any active manager, behind Baker and Terry Francona (who, you may recall to be, has himself won a few World Series). Showalter won his fourth Manager of the Year award in 2022, but of course he would trade them all for that elusive World Series ring. He may never have a better shot than in 23.
8. Francisco Álvarez, the star is yours.
Hey, kid, we know you’re an amazing hitting prospect who’s still looking to catch in the major leagues. Guess what? You’re about to be the drum mate to two of the fiercest competitors in baseball history. You’ll end up learning so much… if they don’t watch you a few times before the end of the season.
9. Who owns the Big Apple?
Maybe the Yankees will sign Aaron Judge and maybe not. But even if they do, there’s no doubt that the days of the Yankees having the city to themselves are over. The Yankees are the team that’s supposed to catch big-name free agents because they’ll do whatever it takes to win. But that’s been more the Mets’ MO the past two winters. It’s good if the Yankees continue to go further in the playoffs than the Mets, like they did last season. But even with the Yankees’ AL East title, they’ve won fewer games than the Mets in 2022. Most projection systems predict the same in 23. Who’s running this town, anyway?
10. The Astros’ young starters are going to have to step up.
It’s certainly no surprise that Verlander left the Astros: it was a widely discussed subplot during the World Series, after all. But no matter how well you’ve built your roster, no team likes losing a Cy Young winner. The Astros are full of pitching talent, sure, but to ask one of those pitchers (even Framber Valdez, the team’s new ace) to be Verlander is asking a lot.
11. The market is moving!
Maybe it’s the setback of the pandemic, maybe it’s a return to normal, maybe it’s the new labor contract, but one thing is clear: at the top of the market, teams are compete for top talent in free agency. Turner is a speed player who will earn $27 million by age 40. It seems like a risk, to say the least. But another risk is not having Turner on your team, and if you wanted Turner on your team, like the Phillies did, that’s what you had to pay. It’s safe to assume markets for Judge, Correa and others will be just as robust.
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