Justin Verlander has until 5pm ET today to accept or reject a one-year, $18.4MM qualifying offer (as do all other free agents who received a QO), but the widespread expectation is that he’ll reject and fully explore his options. That’s due in part to Astros owner Jim Crane saying last month that Verlander will be looking for a “contract of some length” in free agency, but it’s also due to what’s reported to be strong early interest in the future Hall of Famer.
Verlander held a showcase for teams earlier this month — a step that would seem unlikely were he simply planning to accept the Astros’ QO — and his reps at ISE Baseball have had the past 10 days to gauge interest from other clubs. Ken Rosenthal suggested on MLB Network this morning (video link) that early indications are Verlander would prefer to sign with a club that holds Spring Training in Florida, which meshes with Joel Sherman of the New York Post reporting that several interested teams believe Verlander prefers to play with an East Coast club.
Notably, Sherman adds that both the Red Sox and Blue Jays — each of whom hold Spring Training in Florida — made “aggressive” offers to another high-upside, short-term pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery: Noah Syndergaard. Peter Gammons tweeted yesterday that Syndergaard had multiple offers at or near the $21MM price point for which he agreed to join the Angels, including one approaching $25MM in value. It’s not expressly clear that the Jays or Red Sox offered $21MM+ for Syndergaard, but it’s notable that both teams were aggressive on a fellow Tommy John reclamation play.
Verlander has drawn interest from both Toronto and Boston, per Sherman, who adds that the Yankees seem fairly serious with their interest in the 39-year-old. Verlander, somewhat notably, held his recent showcase at Cressey Sports Performance — the Florida-based training facility operated by Yankees director of player health and performance Eric Cressey. Corey Kluber did the same last offseason before ultimately agreeing to a deal with the Yankees. As noted at the time of the showcase, the location of Verlander’s audition alone doesn’t tip the scale in the Yankees’ favor, but it shouldn’t be completely overlooked, either.
Geographical preference notwithstanding, the best offer is likely to win the bidding for Verlander at the end of the day. It’s unlikely he’d leave an extra year or tens of millions of dollars on the table to spurn a West Coast team to sign in New York, Boston or Toronto. Factors like geography, Spring Training locale and familiarity with teammates (e.g. Gerrit Cole in the Bronx, George Springer in Toronto) are often, albeit not always, more tiebreakers when weighing comparable offers.
Tigers fans, of course, undoubtedly would love to see a reunion in Detroit and are surely heartened to see Verlander’s preference for Florida-based Spring Training outfits. However, Rosenthal also suggests that the Tigers may not be “in as heavily” as other interested clubs.