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We're now into December, and the Winter Meetings are just around the bend. In terms of free agents and trade candidates, all the major names remain on the board, but that could change in the coming days. Given that assumed momentum, it's time to check in on the daily supply of MLB rumors. Let's do that now. 

Astros' reluctance may open up Verlander market

It figures that the incumbent Houston Astros would have the edge when it comes to signing free agent ace and reigning AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, but Jon Heyman writes that the Astros' reluctance to offer the 39-year-old a third guaranteed year may be allowing other Verlander suitors to assert themselves. Heyman: 

"Word is, the Astros and Justin Verlander are "far apart" in talks. Verlander seeks $130 million for three years (the Max Scherzer deal), and the Astros, with their deep rotation, seem pessimistic on Verlander, which may open things up for the Dodgers, Mets and Yankees."

The Mets offer an intriguing possibility given the presence of franchise lifer Jacob deGrom on the free-agent market. A signing of Verlander would very likely spell an end to deGrom's days as a Met, but from the Mets' side of things, it might provide more near-term certainty given deGrom's substantial recent injury history. Given the heavy hitters at the top of the Verlander market, getting that third year seems like a realistic goal for the future Hall of Famer. 

Phillies schedule meetings with top shortstops, Padres talk to Turner

The Phillies are slated to meet with the top four free-agent shortstops -- Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, and Dansby Swanson -- ahead of Sunday's start of the Winter Meetings, according to Jayson Stark of The Athletic. The Phillies are expected to land one of the four, with Turner long being rumored as their preferred target. Still, it's to be seen if and when that will come to fruition. The Phillies will presumably move rookie shortstop Bryson Stott to the other side of the bag should they be able to complete their shopping this offseason.

It's worth noting that the Padres have had a pair of in-person meetings with Turner, according to Dennis Lin of The Athletic. San Diego has also been tied to Bogaerts this winter.

Yankees targeting rotation help

Presumably, the Yankees' No. 1 priority this offseason is re-signing slugger Aaron Judge. At the same time, GM Brian Cashman may be looking to bolster the rotation. Here's Jon Heyman: 

As noted elsewhere in this particular dispatch, Verlander and the Astros don't appear close to a deal, which theoretically provides an opening for other interested parties, including the Yankees. Absent a Verlander splash, the Yankees may seek out a pairing with lefty free agent Carlos Rodón, who's revived his career by pitching to a 2.67 ERA and 4.80 K/BB ratio over the last two seasons. Right now, the New York rotation consists of Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes, and Luis Severino, with Frankie Montas and Domingo Germán as candidates to fill out the back end. That's hardly the worst status quo to be found, but injury and depth concerns cloud the picture a bit. 

Dodgers may angle to sign star free agent shortstop

The Los Angeles Dodgers may be looking to add star power to what's already the strongest roster in Major League Baseball. In Ken Rosenthal's latest notes column, he lays out a scenario in which the Dodgers solidify second base (with an assist from the Brewers) and then address shortstop at the top of the market. Rosenthal writes: 

"One possible scenario: Trade for Brewers second baseman Kolten Wong, a player the Dodgers like, according to major-league sources. Sign one of the big four free-agent shortstops. Play Max Muncy and perhaps even Gavin Lux at third."

Those big four free-agent shortstops are Trea Turner (who spent the last season and a half with the Dodgers), Carlos Correa, Dansby Swanson, and Xander Bogaerts. Given the questions surrounding Swanson's bat and Bogaerts' glove, a reunion with Turner or a bid for Correa seem the most likely approach for the Dodgers. No doubt, they have the resources to make such a splash happen, and there's also a strong organizational will under Andrew Friedman to field the best team possible. 

Red Sox sign Chris Martin

The Red Sox have agreed to a two-year deal with right-hander Chris Martin that will pay him more than $17 million, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan. In 60 appearances last season, he accumulated a 3.05 ERA (137 ERA+) and a 14.80 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Martin will celebrate his 37th birthday next June.

D-Backs ink Miguel Castro

The Arizona Diamondbacks have agreed to terms with right-handed reliever Miguel Castro on a one-year deal worth $3.5 million, Robert Murray reports. Castro, who turns 28 on Christmas Eve, is coming off a 2022 season in which he pitched to a 4.03 ERA and 2.07 K/BB ratio in 29 innings for the Yankees, limited by a shoulder strain. For his career, Castro owns an ERA+ of 106 across parts of eight major-league seasons. Jon Heyman adds that Castro's deal with Arizona also includes an option for 2024. 

O's add Cordero

The Orioles have signed outfielder Franchy Cordero to a split deal, according to Robert Murray. He'll make more than $1.3 million if he's in the majors. The 28-year-old Cordero has hit for an 83 OPS+ for his career. He does have impressive raw power, though his contact issues have prevented him from tapping into it often enough to make an impact.