Rosenthal: What I hear at the MLB Winter Meetings

Rumors have been swirling around baseball for the past few weeks that Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer didn’t like each other, dating back to their 2011-14 stint with the Tigers.

The excitement prompted me to call two other members of those Tigers teams to ask if that was true. Both said Verlander and Scherzer were indeed competitive as teammates, as one might expect from two Type A aces. However, none of the former Tigers thought it would stop the Mets from signing Verlander and reuniting him with Scherzer.

Apparently that wasn’t the case, as Verlander and the Mets agreed on Monday to a two-year, $86.66 million contract with an exercise option for a third year. The average annual value of $43.33 million matches Scherzer’s as the highest in major league history.

Both pitchers are older now — Verlander turns 40 on Feb. 20, Scherzer is 38. Both became world champions after leaving the Tigers, Verlander with the Astros in 2017 and 2022, Scherzer with the Nationals in 2019. Both want to win again.

• The Phillies thought Xander Bogaerts was a reasonable alternative to Trea Turner. Bogaerts is the best hitter among the big four shortstops according to some clubs. He has proven he can play in a demanding market and could excel at another infield position in the future if needed. He could also sign for fewer years as a gymnast.

The Padres met with Turner twice in person, and the San Diego climate and lifestyle appeals to many players. Turner, on the other hand, is from Florida and his wife is from New Jersey. It was believed that he preferred the east coast. (UPDATED: Trea Turner signed with the Phillies for 11 years, $300 million, according to sources)

One more thing to consider, a challenge that the Padres, Angels, Dodgers and Giants are all at liberty to face: California’s state income tax is the highest in the nation.

• The market for free agent catcher Christian Vázquez includes the Cubs, Cardinals, Padres, Guardians and Twins. The Astros are also interested in keeping Vázquez, but more like a job share with Martín Maldonado.

Vázquez, 32, appears likely to land a three-year contract. During the postseason, opponents netted just one run in the 33 innings he caught for the Astros on JT Realmuto’s 10th-inning homer against Luis Garcia in Game 1 of the World Series.

While the Astros’ pitching team deserves a lot of credit, Vázquez was behind the final 12 innings of the Division Series clincher against the Mariners, the Yankees’ combined nine-inning shutout in Game 3 of the ALCS, and the combined no-hitter in Game 4 the World Series.

• Speaking of the Astros, they have three left-handed outfielders in their sights – Andrew Benintendi, Michael Brantley and Michael Conforto.

All three ended the season in various forms of decline. Benintendi, 28, suffered a fractured hamate of his right hand on September 2. Brantley, 35, stopped playing after June 26 and underwent surgery on his right shoulder on August 12. Conforto, 29, suffered an injury to his right shoulder in January, had surgery in April and did not play at all last season.

• The Angels are trying to move up shortstop and stay in position to spend, but their immediate focus is on a back-end reliever.

Right now, the Angels’ short-term options are Andrew Velazquez, Luis Rengifo and David Fletcher. The big four shortstops – Turner, Carlos Correa, Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson – are more likely to join clubs that are in better shape.

Plenty of free-agent relievers remain available, but the Angels, like many clubs, are wary of rising prices.

• Finally, here are Verlander’s career earnings by decades, now that he will begin his new contract with the Mets in his 40s.

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

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

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