Judge looms; Verlander, Turner deals heat up winter meetings

FILE - New York Yankees' Aaron Judge gestures as he runs the bases after hitting a solo home run, his 62nd of the season, during the first inning in the second baseball game of a doubleheader against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022. With the home run, Judge set the AL record for home runs in a season, passing Roger Maris. Judge won the American League MVP Award on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022, in voting by a Baseball Writers' Association of America panel. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File) (Lm Otero, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

SAN DIEGO – Justin Verlander is going to the New York Mets. Trea Turner has agreed to a blockbuster deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. There are three more high-profile shortstops in free agency, along with ace pitcher Carlos Rodón.

And one big slugger looms above the whole market.

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Baseball's first winter meetings since 2019 kicked into high gear Monday when Verlander agreed to an $86.7 million, two-year deal with New York, and Turner joined Philadelphia for a $300 million, 11-year contract. Clayton Kershaw also returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers on a $20 million, one-year deal.

The biggest outstanding question at the end of an impactful day at a downtown San Diego hotel centered on the status of AL MVP Aaron Judge, who was all the way across the country at the NFL's “Monday Night Football” game at Tampa Bay — right across the street from the Yankees' spring training complex.

Judge is a free agent after setting an American League record with 62 homers, powering the Yankees to the AL East title. He also tied for the major league lead with 131 RBIs and just missed a Triple Crown with a .311 batting average.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, fresh off getting a new four-year contract, said he spoke with one of Judge's agents on Monday.

“We are in active conversations,” Cashman said. “Certainly we'd love to land the plane favorably here in New York in the Bronx. But we're not flying the plane. And so we'll wait, we'll wait for this process to play out.”

Judge, a Northern California native, also visited with the San Francisco Giants last month, and there likely are more teams monitoring the market for the 6-foot-7 outfielder who turns 31 in April.

“I feel good about what we’ve done but some of it is out of our control. I think we’ve put ourselves in position,” said Farhan Zaidi, the president of baseball operations for the Giants.

Judge was drafted by New York in 2013 and spent his first seven big league seasons with the Yankees. But Cashman said he hasn't received any indication from Judge's camp that the team will have any last chance to match any offers to the slugger.

“I'm not putting a timeframe on him as of today, basically, and we've not put any timeframe on him that way because out of respect for the position he's earned himself in free agency,” Cashman said. “And now you've seen in the last 48 hours, people are starting to make decisions. So it's not like we've missed time, in my opinion.

“But I understand that the longer things go, the more at risk you are.”

Verlander made his decision Monday, agreeing to a contract with the Mets that is worth $43,333,333 per year and includes a vesting player option for 2025 at $35 million, according to a person familiar with the negotiations who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because there was no immediate announcement.

Verlander departs Houston to step in for Jacob deGrom, who left New York after nine seasons when he agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract with Texas last week. It also puts Verlander on the same team as Max Scherzer after they played together with the Detroit Tigers from 2010-14.

Mets general manager Billy Eppler declined to confirm the Verlander move, but he said the team was working on its pitching plans.

“If we are able to add an impact pitcher or a couple of impact pitchers, that would be helpful," he said. "We continue to try to stay mindful of is creating that run differential. That can be done by scoring a lot more runs. However that manifests itself we will have to be open-minded to.”

Turner's deal includes a no-trade clause, according to another person familiar with the negotiations who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because there was no immediate announcement.

Turner joins a Philadelphia team that made it to the World Series this year before losing to Verlander and the Astros. He also reunites with slugger Bryce Harper after the two played together with the Washington Nationals from 2015-18.

Phillies President Dave Dombrowski declined to confirm the move, but acknowledged the importance of adding a shortstop.

“Not that we're not already focused on starting pitching and bullpen, too,” he said. “But at least that would complete our major situation from a positional player perspective.”

Turner rejected a $19.65 million qualifying offer from the Dodgers in November, joining a stellar group of free agent shortstops that also included Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson.

With Turner gone, there could be a run on shortstops for the rest of the winter meetings, especially with restrictions on defensive positioning coming to the game next year. Rodón, who had a 2.88 ERA in 31 starts with the Giants last season, also is attracting more attention with Verlander and deGrom off the market.

“I think that sometimes having some big deals happen, I think can kind break the ice and allow some deals,” said Jed Hoyer, the president of baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs. “It's clear now that that's going to happen.”


Follow Jay Cohen at https://twitter.com/jcohenap


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