Buzz from around the American League…
- There haven’t been any extension talks between Justin Verlander and the Astros front office, the right-hander told reporters, including MLBcom’s Brian McTaggart (Twitter and video link). “I don’t know what their organizational plans are. It’s something I wouldn’t be opposed to….we’ll see what happens,” Verlander said. It isn’t necessarily surprising to see a lack of negotiations between the two sides at this point, since most teams wait until their offseason business is complete and Spring Training begins before turning focus to extending in-house talent. Still, there is some urgency in Verlander’s case, given that 2019 is his last guaranteed year under contract (he agreed to waive a possible vesting option for 2020 as part of his trade to Houston in August 2017). Verlander is coming off one of his finest seasons, a campaign that saw him finish second in AL Cy Young Award voting after leading the league in both K/BB rate (a career-best 7.84) and strikeouts (290, another career high) while posting a 2.52 ERA over 214 innings. There certainly doesn’t appear to be much evidence that Verlander is slowing down, even though he turns 36 in February.
- There also haven’t been any long-term contract talks between Carlos Correa and the Astros, the shortstop tells the Houston Chronicle’s Chandler Rome. Persistent back problems limited Correa to just 468 plate appearances in 2018 and a .239/.323/.405 slash line, easily the worst of his four MLB seasons. “For me, right now is not the time to talk about [an extension],” Correa said. “Obviously coming off the injury last year and the down year. I’m looking forward to bouncing back this year, be the player I am and we go from there.” The first step is an arbitration hearing between Correa and the Astros on January 31, with Correa submitting a $5MM salary figure for 2019 and the team counting with a $4.25MM offer. This is Correa’s first of three years of arbitration eligibility, so there is still plenty of time for the two sides to eventually work out a longer-term deal once Correa feels he’s coming off a better platform year.
- White Sox GM Rick Hahn said he would “be personally disappointed” if the team didn’t sign Manny Machado or Bryce Harper, though he told MLB.com’s Scott Merkin and other reporters that the mere pursuit of such top-tier stars represents a new stage of the team’s rebuild. “The fact that we are now sitting here in a potential position — or at least in a position where, if we don’t convert, people are going to be disappointed — I think is an important step forward for this organization,” Hahn said.
- The Orioles aren’t likely to sign any free agents to multi-year contracts this winter, GM Mike Elias told Rich Dubroff of BaltimoreBaseball.com and other media, and the team could avoid any Major League contracts whatsoever for free agents. With the O’s in the early stages of a rebuild, the team wasn’t much of a candidate to be making any long-term commitments, as the focus will instead be on giving time to young players. That said, Elias didn’t close the door on any possibilities for his club, noting “we’re looking for ways to be opportunistic and true with the players that are left unsigned right now.”
- Rays right-hander Wilmer Font has recently started to throw fastball-only bullpen sessions and expects to be ready for Spring Training, he tells MLB.com’s Juan Toribio. Font suffered a lat strain in late June that wound up being a season-ending injury, rather than an eight-week DL stint as originally projected. The injury brought an abrupt end to a very promising start for Font as a Ray, since the righty had a 1.67 ERA over his first 27 innings for Tampa after the club acquired him from Oakland in May. A healthy Font would give the Rays yet another intriguing pitching weapon, able of a traditional bullpen role or perhaps again working as an “opener.”