MLB rumors: Justin Verlander, Trea Turner start Winter Meetings with a bang; Clayton Kershaw deal finalized

Major League Baseball’s annual Winter Meetings kicked off Sunday with the news that Fred McGriff was inducted into the Hall of Fame via the Contemporary Era Committee. The hope is that was the beginning of a crazy several days of baseball activity, chock full of a free agent signing spree and even a few high-profile trades. San Diego is the host of the winter meetings and we’ve seen plenty of activity there before. The last time it was there, we saw Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon and Gerrit Cole sign nine-figure deals amid a flurry of moves.

If history repeats itself here, it’ll be a huge start to seeing the biggest names in free agency come off the board this offseason. We’re off to a good start, too.

Let’s round up the news and rumors for Monday right here. We’ll be updating this throughout the day, so definitely come back.

Verlanders signs with Mets

Ace and AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander has signed a two-year, $86 million deal with the Mets. Full story here.

The Mets lost Jacob deGrom in free agency to the rangers, so replacing him with Verlander was the logical move here for a team with such deep pockets coming off a 101-win season. Verlander reunites with Max Scherzer, as the two were teammates with the Tigers from 2010-14.

Phillies sign Turner

The Phillies have landed their star shortstop. Trea Turner has joined the defending NL champs on a massive 11-year, $300 million contract. He reunites with buddy Bryce Harper, who was his teammate all those years with the Nationals.

The 11-year term lowers Turner’s average annual value to $27.3 million, the 17th highest in baseball in 2023 (among players currently under contract). That gives the Phillies a little more wiggle room with regard to the competitive balance tax in the immediate future. They still figure to add a starting pitcher this offseason.

Kershaw deal finally official

All the way back on Nov 10, reports indicated the dodgers and lefty legend Clayton Kershaw were in the process of finalizing a one-year deal worth around $17 million. Generally speaking, once reporters catch wind of such things, it’s only a few days — sometimes less time than that — before the deal becomes official unless there’s a snag. There has been absolutely nothing on the reported deal since then, though, so what was going on?

It’s hard telling now. The Dodgers have announced the one-year deal as official and it’s worth $20 million.

Given that Walker Buehler is likely to miss all of 2023 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Dodgers’ rotation is currently Kershaw, Julio Urías, Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May with Ryan Pepiot possibly being involved. Surely they aren’t done and will add another veteran rotation arm this offseason, perhaps as early as these Winter Meetings.

Kershaw was 12-3 with a 2.28 ERA (184 ERA+), 0.94 WHIP and 137 strikeouts against 23 walks in 126 1/3 innings last season. He’s heading to his age-35 season and has played all 15 MLB seasons for the Dodgers.

Simply, a continued marriage here makes a tone of sense for both sides.

Taillion with a hot market

Right-handed pitcher Jameson Taillon is one of the mid-tier starters on the free agent market and he’s not attached to draft compensation, since the Yanks didn’t extend him a qualifying offer. So far, the market for him is “deep,” According to MLB.comwith the meads, Phillies, cubs other Orioles among the suitors.

Taillon, 31, was 14-5 with a 3.91 ERA (100 ERA+), 1.13 WHIP and 151 strikeouts against 32 walks in 177 1/3 innings last season. He posted 1.3 WAR.

The Mets have Verlander, Max Scherzer, Carlos Carrasco and possibly Tylor Megill and David Peterson in their current rotation. They’d likely have been targeting Taillon as a lower-rotation guy anyway, so we’ll assume the Verlander signing doesn’t impact their interest here.

Speaking of teams targeting Taillon as a lower-rotation guy, the Phillies have Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Ranger Suárez as their top three. Stud prospect Andrew Painter could figure by the end of the year, too, but they’ll still need lower-rotation depth — along with Bailey Falter — to get through the regular season.

The Cubs have Marcus Stroman, Kyle Hendricks, Justin Steele and then maybe youngster Hayden Wesneski in the rotation. They have depth (Adrian Sampson, Javier Assad, Keegan Thompson as a swing man), but could use more upside. The Orioles are missing ace John Means as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. They’ve already signed Kyle Gibson to team with Dean Kremer, Kyle Bradish and top prospect Grayson Rodriguez. If they are looking to contend again, they’ll need more in the rotation.

twins make batting champ available

Would the Twins trade utility man Luis Arraez? A report from The Athletic says it’s possible, so long as it is the “right deal” with the Twins seeking starting pitching help.

Arraez, 25, led the AL with a .316 batting average last season while making his first All-Star team and winning a Silver Slugger, too. He had 31 doubles, eight homers, 49 RBI, 88 runs, a 130 OPS+ and 4.4 WAR last season. He walked 50 times compared to just 43 strikeouts in 603 plate appearances. He played first base the most, but also saw significant time at second and dabbled a bit at third.

Arraez will hit arbitration for the first time this winter and he’s not eligible for free agency until after the 2025 season.

The Twins rotation, right now, would be Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Tyler Mahle, Kenta Maeda and Bailey Ober.

Mets after Benintendi

It could be a busy week for the Mets. They have signed Verlander and are pursuing Taillon, and are also in the mix for Andrew Benintendi, reports the New York Post. First while center fielder Brandon Nimmo is a free agent, though the Mets could slide Starling Marte to center with Benintendi and Mark Canha in the corners.

Benintendi, 28, slashed .304/.373/.399 with five home runs in 126 games with the royals and Yankees this past season. He did not play after Sept. 2 because of hamate surgery, though the Yankees were hopeful he would be able to play in the World Series had they advanced out of the ALCS. Our RJ Anderson ranked Benintendi the No. 18 free agent this offseason.

Big market for Vázquez

Free agent catcher Christian Vázquez was traded from the Red Sox to the Astros last season and now finds himself with no shortage of suitors. The teams showing interest thus far, per Ken Rosenthalare the cubs, Cardinals, Padres, Guardians and Twins.

Vázquez, 32, hit .274/.315/.399 (99 OPS+) with 23 doubles, nine homers, 52 RBI and 2.1 WAR last season.

angels signed Estevez

The Angels have signed hard-throwing righty reliever Carlos Estévez to a two-year contract, the team announced. The deal is worth $14 million guaranteed, reports the New York Post. Estévez was an under-the-radar free agent coming into the offseason:

This past season the 29-year-old threw 57 innings with a 3.47 ERA and 54 strikeouts with the rockies. As is always the case with ex-Rockies pitchers, the Angels hope the move out of Coors Field will help Estévez find consistency with his stuff and improve his performance.

Blue Jays make offer to Heaney

The Blue Jays have made an offer to free agent lefty Andrew Heaney, reports Sportsnet. Heaney struck out 35.5 percent of the batters he faced in 2022 and had one of the highest swing-and-miss rates in baseball, though he’s always been very homer prone, which has prevented him from ascending to the top of an MLB rotation.

Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman, and José Berríos are the only locks for Toronto’s rotation at the moment. Yusei Kikuchi, last year’s lefty swing-and-miss signing, could rejoin the rotation after being demoted to the bullpen this summer. Heaney or otherwise, the Blue Jays are expected to add at least one starting pitcher this offseason.

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