The second day of the winter meetings saw two of the biggest free agent dominoes fall, each of whom is my top ranked player at his position.
And nothing about his new destination changes that.
If you're forcing me to declare stock up or stock down for Trea Turner, now with the Phillies for 11 years and $300 million, and Justin Verlander, now with the Mets for two years and $86 million, then I guess I'd have to say stock down for both. Turner is leaving the Dodgers, a historically efficient run-scoring juggernaut, and Verlander the Astros, the defending World Series champions and participants in four of the past six. It's hard to imagine a better scenario for a hitter and pitcher, so it stands to reason their stock can only go down.
But we're talking by the slimmest of margins, so little that it's hardly worth commenting on. We've seen Turner with the Nationals. We've seen Verlander with the Tigers. They were as studly then as they are now, and their talent is such that the same would likely hold true no matter where they went.
As it happens, Turner is joining a team that itself ranked seventh in runs scored last year. He'll have boppers like Bryce Harper (his longtime teammate in Washington), Kyle Schwarber, J.T. Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins to drive him in, and he may even get to run more seeing as he'll be joining the team with the fifth-most stolen bases in 2022. As good as Turner was last season, his 27 steals were kind of a disappointment and less than we're used to seeing from him.
As for Verlander, he'll be joining a Mets team that won 100 games in 2022, and when you consider they're committing more than $40 million to him each of the next two years, they have every intention of competing again. They actually scored more runs than the Astros last year, too, and while I wouldn't bet on it becoming a trend, the fact is that Verlander shouldn't find the run support lacking with his new team.
So fine, saying Turner and Verlander lose value with these signings is a stretch, but then, what is their value in the first place? I've said each is my top-ranked player at his position, but there is some disagreement on both fronts.
Early ADP on NFBC has Turner as the No. 1 player overall, and I just can't get on board with that thinking even if he had stayed with the Dodgers. He may be the best bet for batting average among the consensus first-round picks, having hit .311 over the past four seasons, and he's at least in the conversation for best base-stealer as well. But he'll be eligible only at shortstop next year, and outfield and third base are shaping up to be much weaker.
That's reason enough to prioritize Aaron Judge and Jose Ramirez over Turner, in my eyes, but I also think, between the deadened balls and pickoff limits, we're entering an era when home runs will be a higher priority than stolen bases in the early rounds. Judge stands out from everyone in that regard and, to me, is a better No. 1 choice than Turner.
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Meanwhile, Verlander is the 11th starting pitcher off the board, according to early ADP, and that one is especially difficult to figure out. The surefire Hall of Famer is coming off a year in which he won his third Cy Young and led the majors in both ERA (1.75) and WHIP (0.83). The tepid draft response probably has to do with him turning (gulp) 40 this offseason, a number that should indeed give us pause, but at starting pitcher specifically, I don't think of age as a particularly high risk factor.
In fact, it's almost a point in the pitcher's favor because it shows his resilience, and as often as pitchers are breaking down, that may be the most important quality of all. I can trust Verlander will give me 6-7 innings, April through September, better than I can trust Shane McClanahan, Spencer Strider or even Corbin Burnes will because he has a long and storied history of doing it.
As for the peripheral impact of these signings, it's hard to say at this point in the offseason. The Mets still have a couple openings in their rotation after losing Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker in addition to Jacob deGrom, and while we've been intrigued by Tylor Megill and David Peterson in the past, it's doubtful either is a first choice given how poorly 2022 ended for both.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers lineup has only four fixtures in Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Will Smith and Max Muncy. While it's hard to imagine them standing pat, Gavin Lux does appear to have a clearer path to at-bats, whether at shortstop or second base, after playing only semi-regularly in 2022. He's not a significant source of home runs or stolen bases but could be bolstered enough by his supporting cast to make a Jean Segura-like impact in 2023.