The Opener: Astros, First Basemen, Free Agent Prediction Contest Leaderboard

With the Winter Meetings now less than a week away, the hot stove seems to be heating up. Here are some things we’re keeping our eyes on today…

1. Are The Astros And Verlander Moving On From Each Other?

The Astros just won the World Series but they’re not resting on their laurels. Despite parting ways with general manager James Click and not hiring a replacement, the club has been one of the most aggressive so far this offseason. They re-signed Rafael Montero to a three-year deal and yesterday poached Jose Abreu from the White Sox on another three-year deal. Next on the agenda seems to be their pursuit of a left-handed hitting outfielder, with the club connected to Michael Conforto and Cody Bellinger in recent days. One area where the club appears to be less focused is starting pitching. A couple of weeks ago, reports indicated that Justin Verlander was looking for a deal similar to the three-year pact Max Scherzer got from the Mets, but that the Astros and owner Jim Crane weren’t willing to go to that level. Since that time, Houston has turned to other players while Verlander has met with the Mets and then also reportedly met with the Dodgers yesterday. Does this mean that his time in Houston, which began in 2017, is coming to an end?

2. Will The Run On First Basemen Continue?

The first base market has been surprisingly active so far this winter, as the Yankees re-signed Anthony Rizzo, the Pirates traded for Ji-Man Choi and signed Carlos Santana, and then Abreu landed with the Astros yesterday. For teams that still need help at first, the options are starting to dwindle. Josh Bell, Trey Mancini, Yuli Gurriel, Brandon Belt, and Luke Voit are some of the free agents still available, while Rowdy Tellez could potentially be available in a trade. The Padres, Cubs, Marlins and Guardians were all connected to Abreu in some fashion but will now need to move on to backup plans. The Rays, Twins and Giants are also teams that could pursue upgrades. As options come off the table, will those clubs act quickly before it’s too late?

3. Free Agent Prediction Contest Leaderboard

The leaderboard for the MLB Trade Rumors Free Agent Prediction Contest will be unveiled later today. As players sign, you’ll be able to track your predictions and compare yourself to other contestants, including MLBTR employees. We decided to make one change this year compared to years past, removing the “freebies.” That means that Anthony Rizzo, Clayton Kershaw, Rafael Montero, Joc Pederson, Martin Perez, and Tyler Anderson will be removed from the results and batting average calculation since they signed while the contest was open.

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