Two-time AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander entered free agency less than a week after winning the World Series with the Houston Astros.

Verlander exercised the player option in his contract, as he seeks a substantive pay rise and multi-year deal in the open market, with the Astros due to pay him $25 million in 2023.

The 39-year-old is firmly in line to win the 2022 AL Cy Young Award, which will be announced on Thursday, after posting a 1.75 ERA, striking out 185 batters in 175 innings over 28 starts this season.

The Astros have resolved to do their best to retain Verlander, with owner Jim Crane and general manager James Click discussing the pitcher's future at length this week.

"We've been talking to him and we're working on it. We're going to do our best to try to keep him," Crane said on Wednesday.

"What's great about this team is the pitching depth, so deep, and hopefully Verlander's on that list."

Verlander claimed his career-first World Series victory during the Astros' recent triumph, in what was his ninth WS start.

The Astros pitching staff includes Framber Valdez, Ryan Pressly, Bryan Abreu, Cristian Javier, Hector Neris, Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy and Lance McCullers Jr.

Valdez, Pressly, Javier and Verlander were all named as nominees in the All-MLB Team on Thursday.

Exciting Seattle Mariners youngster Julio Rodriguez has been rewarded for his spectacular rookie season as one of the three American League (AL) outfielders named as Silver Sluggers on Thursday.

Rodriguez, 21, had arguably the best rookie season since Aaron Judge finished MVP runner-up with his debut campaign for the New York Yankees back in 2017.

In 132 games, Rodriguez led all rookies with 28 home runs, and became the third rookie to ever tally at least 25 homers and 25 stolen bases in their first year. He is the fourth rookie outfielder to ever win a Silver Slugger, joining fellow Mariner Ichiro Suzuki (2001), three-time MVP Mike Trout (2012) and Judge (2017).

Likely this season's AL MVP, New York's Judge joined Rodriguez in the outfield to collect his third Silver Slugger, with Trout filling the third outfield spot. 

Texas Rangers first-baseman Nathaniel Lowe, Houston Astros second-baseman Jose Altuve, Cleveland Guardians third-baseman Jose Ramirez and Toronto Blue Jays catcher Alejandro Kirk complete the AL infield. Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez is in the designated hitter spot, and Atlanta Braves batting champion Luis Arraez was named as the utility.

The San Diego Padres landed three players in the NL team, with Juan Soto named in the outfield, while Josh Bell took the DH slot and Brandon Drury is the utility.

Los Angeles Dodgers teammates Trea Turner (shortstop) and Mookie Betts (OF) made the cut, as did St Louis Cardinals duo Paul Goldschmidt (first base) and Nolan Arenado (third base).

The Philadelphia Phillies had both J.T. Realmuto (catcher) and Kyle Schwarber (OF), and New York Mets second-baseman Jeff McNeil completed the line-up.

Exciting Seattle Mariners youngster Julio Rodriguez has been rewarded for his spectacular rookie season as one of the three American League outfielders named as Silver Sluggers on Thursday.

Rodriguez, 21, had arguably the best rookie season since Aaron Judge finished MVP runner-up with his debut campaign for the New York Yankees back in 2017.

In 132 games, Rodriguez led all rookies with 28 home runs, and became the third rookie to ever tally at least 25 homers and 25 stolen bases in their first year. He is the fourth rookie outfielder to ever win a Silver Slugger, joining fellow Mariner Ichiro Suzuki (2001), three-time MVP Mike Trout (2012) and Judge (2017).

Likely this season's AL MVP, New York's Judge joined Rodriguez in the outfield to collect his third Silver Slugger, with Trout filling the third outfield spot. 

Texas Rangers first-baseman Nathaniel Lowe, Houston Astros second-baseman Jose Altuve, Cleveland Guardians third-baseman Jose Ramirez and Toronto Blue Jays catcher Alejandro Kirk complete the AL infield. Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez is in the designated hitter spot, and Atlanta Braves batting champion Luis Arraez was named as the utility.

The San Diego Padres landed three players in the NL team, with Juan Soto named in the outfield, while Josh Bell took the DH slot and Brandon Drury is the utility.

Los Angeles Dodgers teammates Trea Turner (shortstop) and Mookie Betts (OF) made the cut, as did St Louis Cardinals duo Paul Goldschmidt (first base) and Nolan Arenado (third base).

The Philadelphia Phillies had both J.T. Realmuto (catcher) and Kyle Schwarber (OF), and New York Mets second-baseman Jeff McNeil completed the line-up.

New York Yankees superstar Aaron Judge collected the first of many individual awards set to come his way when he was named winner of the American League's Hank Aaron Award.

Paul Goldschmidt of the St Louis Cardinals was named the National League winner of the award, which honours the player in each league who had the best offensive season.

Judge, 30, enjoyed the best year of his career as he broke the single-season Yankees and American League home run record, reaching 62 to surpass Roger Maris' 61 – set 61 years ago in 1961.

Making his fourth All-Star game, Judge also set career-highs in batting average (.311), slugging percentage (.686) and on-base percentage (.425) – leading the majors in the latter two metrics.

With two top-five MVP finishes on his resume already – in 2017 and 2021, winning Silver Slugger awards in both years – Judge is considered a lock to top the votes and claim his first this time around.

Meanwhile, Goldschmidt has looked like the NL MVP since the All-Star break, and was rewarded with his second Hank Aaron Award after also winning it back in 2013 with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Goldschmidt, 35, is set for his sixth top-six finish in MVP voting, batting .317 while leading the NL in on-base-plus-slugging (OPS) at .981.

His 35 home runs finished one off his career-high, set in 2013 and equalled in 2017, giving him his seventh season with at least 30 dingers.

Goldschmidt has two years remaining on his contract with the Cardinals, while Judge is set to enter free agency for the first time in his career.

New York Mets general manager Billy Eppler hopes, and believes, ace pitcher Jacob deGrom will choose to re-sign with the team after opting to enter free agency.

DeGrom, 34, signed a five-year, $137.5million extension with the Mets back in 2019, which included an option to void the final two years of the deal to enter free agency early.

After starting 32 games in the year he signed that deal, deGrom has battled a string of serious injuries, only starting a combined 38 games across the past three seasons.

At his age, with his injury history, he is likely looking at his last massive payday, so it should be no red flag for the Mets that he decided to opt out and cash-in for what will likely be a higher salary with extra years on top.

Eppler told the media on Tuesday that he is optimistic about his club's chances of bringing back the former Rookie of the Year and back-to-back Cy Young Award winner in 2018 and 2019.

"We had another conversation, or a couple of conversations actually leading up to the decision date," he said. "We just kind of made a pact to stay in touch. 

"I think there's a good deal of interest there on his part, so that was articulated a number of times through the season and reiterated in our most recent conversation."

The Mets struck the first big deal of the offseason when they agreed to a five-year, $102m extension for closer Edwin Diaz the day free agency opened, making him the highest-paid relief pitcher in history.

SNY's Andy Martino is reporting the two teams most aggressively looking to lure deGrom out of New York are the Atlanta Braves and the Texas Rangers, and he adds that if either of those teams decide to pay a top-of-the-market price on a deal spanning at least four years, the Mets would be hesitant to match it.

The Los Angeles Angels have no plans to trade two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani this offseason, general manager Perry Minasian told reporters Monday.  

Ohtani is entering his final season of team control before he becomes a free agent next offseason. The Angels agreed to pay Ohtani $30million in 2023 to avoid arbitration, but speculation has persisted that Los Angeles is at a crossroads with the Japanese-born star.  

"Because he's obviously such a good player, we're not moving him. Ohtani is not getting moved," Minasian said at the GM meetings in Las Vegas. "He'll be here to start the season.  

"I know there's been rumors and all types of things, but he will be part of the club. We love the player and I think the goal is for him to be here for a long time."

Minasian said that the Angels’ potential impending ownership change would not affect the club’s willingness to offer Ohtani a contract that is sure to be enormous.  

"At the end of the day it's ownership's call," Minasian said about a potential deal with Ohtani. "But I make the recommendations and I think everybody's on the same page. Easy player not to move."

Ohtani, 28, was named one of the three finalists for the American League MVP Monday after winning the award in 2021. He hit .273 this season with 34 home runs and 95 RBI. As a pitcher, he finished with a 15-9 record and 2.33 ERA while making a career-high 28 starts.  

The Angels have missed the playoffs every season since Ohtani joined the team in 2018 and have made just one postseason appearance since his co-star, Mike Trout, made his debut in 2011.  

One of the top free agents is no longer on the market on the first day of the offseason, with the New York Mets reportedly bringing back closer Edwin Diaz on a five-year, $102million contract, which was agreed to on Sunday.

The deal – which is pending a physical – includes an opt-out clause, a full no-trade clause and a sixth-year option.

It is being reported as the largest contract in baseball history for a reliever, making Diaz the first at his position ever with a nine-figure deal and first to make $20million annually.

The 28-year-old Diaz secured the massive contract after a phenomenal 2022 season, in which he posted a 1.31 ERA and 0.84 WHIP while converting 32 of 35 save opportunities – his second straight season with 32 saves.

Armed with a vicious slider and an overpowering fastball, the shutdown closer earned his second All-Star team selection while proving to be one of the most difficult pitchers to hit, racking up 118 strikeouts in just 62 innings. That rate of 17.13 strikeouts per nine innings is the second-best in MLB history among pitchers with a minimum of 50 innings, trailing only Aroldis Chapman’s rate of 17.67 for the Cincinnati Reds in 2014.

Diaz made his first All-Star team with the Seattle Mariners in 2018, when he compiled 57 saves – tied for second most in a season in baseball history. His 205 career saves are the sixth most by an active pitcher.

Jeremy Pena offered an insight into his mentality going from Carlos Correa's replacement to becoming the second rookie ever to win the MVP of the ALCS and World Series.

Pena's remarkable postseason was crowned on Saturday as the Houston Astros lifted the World Series with a 4-1 Game 6 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies at Minute Maid Park.

The 25-year-old shortstop was named World Series MVP after having 10 hits, five runs including one homer and three RBIs throughout the six games.

Pena went two-for-four with a run scored in Game 6, capping a miraculous rookie season after coming into the side to replace two-time All-Star Correa who left after last season on free agency for the Minnesota Twins.

"I'd say the hardest part was just blocking everything that's not part of the game," Pena told reporters.

"There's a saying that you can't sink a ship with water around. It sinks if water gets inside. So I just try to stay strong and keep the water outside my head.

"Just keep playing my game, show up every single day, and just trust in my preparation."

Pena's rise was also capped by becoming the first-ever rookie shortstop to win the Gold Glove.

"It has a lot to do with my family, my upbringing," Pena said about his confidence.

"Shoutout to my teammates as well. They took me in since day one. They gave me the confidence to just go out and play my game and, yeah, shoutout to them, man. This is special."

Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker is feeling joy not relief after ending his record for most games managed without a World Series title with his side's Game 6 triumph on Saturday.

The Astros defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 4-1 at Minute Maid Park to clinch the franchise's second World Series title and 73-year-old Baker's first as manager.

Baker, who first managed in the majors in 1993 with the San Francisco Giants, has led 3,883 games for 2,093 wins, with nine divisional titles and three pennants but Saturday's World Series crown marks the pinnacle.

"Now we can quit talking about it," Baker said when asked about breaking record during the post-game trophy presentation.

Baker's adoration was symbolised when he was mobbed by players and staff in the dugout when Kyle Tucker plucked the catch from Nick Castellanos' fly ball to right field to clinch victory.

"It's not relief," Baker said during the post-game press conference. "It's just sheer joy and thankfulness. It's not relief at all. Everybody was talking about it more than I was even thinking about it.

"I always said before that if I win one, I'll win two, but you got to win one first. The one was hell to get to this point. But it was well worth it. I'm in a great city, with great people, great fans, and I got a great ball club.

"I tried not to dwell on it, but tried to have faith and perseverance and knowing that with the right team and the right personnel and right everything that this is going to happen."

The Astros triumph comes after the franchise competed in four of the past six World Series, winning the title in 2017.

That period, however, was tarnished by the sign stealing scandal and Baker, who stepped in with the Astros in 2020 after A.J. Hinch's firing, spoke about the vindication this year's success offers.

"I think that's what drove this team," Baker said. "That's what motivated them. The boos and the jeers that we got all over the country, it bothered these guys, but it also motivated them at the same time.

"It wasn't an us against the world thing. It was more of a come together even closer-type thing. And what happened before, it doesn't ever pass over completely. But we have turned the page and hopefully we'll continue this run."

The Astros had to rally from behind after Kyle Schwarber's solo blast, with Yordan Alvarez delivering a three-run home run in the sixth inning.

Alvarez crushed Jose Alvarado's third pitch over center-field after Phillies manager Rob Thomson had opted to pull starter Zack Wheeler from the game with two runners on. Wheeler admitted after the game he was surprised by that decision which Thomson defended.

"I'm sure he was," Thomson told reporters. "He still had his good stuff. I just thought that that was a key moment in the game and that was a momentum swing that I thought Alvarado had a chance to strike him out. It was just I thought the matchup was better with Alvarado on Alvarez at that time."

The Phillies were the last side to book their postseason spot with an 87-75 regular-season record and reached the World Series after stirring victories over the St Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres.

"They have accomplished a lot," Thomson added. "It's still disappointing, though.

"I told them after the game, 'you guys have nothing to be ashamed of. You don't need to hang your head for anybody', because they came to the ballpark every day and worked hard and played hard and played as a team, had a lot of fun. They grinded through a lot of obstacles. I'm just so proud of all of them. I really am."

The Houston Astros have claimed their second-ever World Series title with a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 6 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday.

Yordan Alvarez's monster three-run blast in the sixth inning flipped the game after Kyle Schwarber's solo blast had put the Phillies ahead at the top of the same inning.

The triumph may offer some vindication for the Astros, who's lone 2017 World Series title was tarnished in the eyes of many by the sign stealing scandal.

Astros manager Dusty Baker secured his first-ever World Series title in his third appearance, having won 2,093 MLB games, nine divisional titles and three pennants.

Starting pitcher Framber Valdez was outstanding with nine strikeouts across six innings, allowing only two hits and one earned run.

Schwarber's solo shot over right field was his sixth homer of the postseason. It came after Valdez had given up only one home run all regular season to left-handers.

But the Astros rallied immediately with Phillies starter Zack Wheeler, who was brilliant with five strikeouts, pulled after Jose Altuve and World Series MVP Jeremy Pena got on base. Alvarez hit reliever Jose Alvarado's fourth pitch beyond the hitter's backdrop over center-field for a 450-foot three-run blast.

Alvarado struggled to regain his composure, with designated hitter Christian Vazquez driving in Alex Bregman for a fourth run.

The Astros' sixth-inning rally seemed to suck the life out of the Phillies who had led the World Series 2-1.

Astros closer Ryan Pressly finished the job, getting the outs of Rhys Hoskins, Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos, who was caught at right-field by Kyle Tucker for the win.

Brian Cashman strayed away from confirming whether the New York Yankees have held contract talks with Aaron Judge.

Star slugger Judge opted to enter free agency, turning down a seven-year contract with the Yankees before the season started.

His stock has risen since then, with Judge having scored a record-breaking 62 home runs in the regular season and racked up 131 RBIs.

Yankees general manager Cashman on Friday gave little away when asked about the possibility of Judge returning next season.

"When you make these commitments on players, you know he's a fan favourite," Cashman said during a press conference.

"He interacts with our fans extremely well. He's respected within that clubhouse, handles his business as good as you possibly can. He's an elite performer – among the game's best, if not the best player. With all that being said, those are the types of players you want to retain and have as long as you possibly can."

Cashman added: "As George Steinbrenner [the former Yankees owner] said, he puts fannies in the seats. People want to go watch that guy play, and you want to put great teams on the field that they want to come here to watch compete and win.

"Certain individual players transcend the team and everything stops when they're at the bat or they have the ball in their hand. He's one of those types of talents."

Cashman, whose future is also unclear after his contract expired, has no issue with Judge biding his time.

"[Judge is] going to dictate the dance steps to his free agency and he has worked extremely hard to earn this position, so we'll see how this plays out," Cashman said. "It can tie you up a little bit along the way, but he's not the only guy that we're needing to deal with.

"He's the most important, but if he came in here today and said, 'Oh, man, I'm signing up, let's go,' there's still a lot of work to be done."

Aaron Boone spoke to Judge in his office after the Yankees missed out on the World Series when they were subjected to a clean sweep by the Houston Astros.

The Yankees boss reiterated that he hopes Judge will be back to lead the team.

He said: "Of course I hope he's back and a Yankee forever. I can't think of a better guy that you want to be leading your team and leading your organisation, and hopefully that all works out.

"But my conversations with him now are just communicating with him through the winter and hoping that it works out. But obviously, that's above me."

Justin Verlander was relieved his work since his Game 1 start was rewarded with a belated first World Series win on Thursday – even if it was still "a heck of a grind".

Verlander pitched five innings in the Houston Astros' 3-2 Game 5 win over the Philadelphia Phillies, giving them a 3-2 series lead.

The nine-time All-Star won the World Series with the Astros in 2017, yet he finished the series against the Los Angeles Dodgers with an 0-1 record.

Verlander did start the Game 2 win versus the Dodgers, but team-mate Chris Devenski was the winning pitcher as the Astros rescued an 11-inning victory.

Heading into Thursday's meeting with the Phillies, Verlander was 0-6 through eight starts in the World Series for his career.

His latest frustration on baseball's biggest stage had seen him depart a Game 1 defeat at 5-5 after five innings.

But Verlander made amends this time, securing a 2-1 lead as he only allowed a Kyle Schwarber leadoff home run from four hits, setting up Ryan Pressly – who closed out a combined no-hitter in Game 4 – to complete the job.

Speaking to MLB Network afterwards, Verlander said he "went back to the drawing board" following his previous start and made the most of the delay in the series after Game 3 was postponed.

"Honestly, the extra day helped me," the 39-year-old said.

"I was able to throw an extra bullpen [because] we got rained out; I threw two bullpens in a row, and I knew I had a lot of work to do. It wasn't easy adjustments, so I needed as many reps as I could.

"After the first few sliders I threw tonight, I was like, 'oh, thank goodness'."

Asked for his thoughts on the long-awaited breakthrough win, Verlander replied: "I don't even know, man. I don't think it's set in yet.

"What an incredible game, first of all. This win, much like most of the wins in my career, doesn't happen without the guys who came in behind me – I only went five innings.

"It was a heck of a grind, especially the first three innings. These guys had a great game plan. After last night, I felt like they completely changed their game plan, were trying to get on top of heaters.

"Thank goodness my slider and curveball clicked, and I was able to lean on those a little bit in the latter half of my outing."

The Houston Astros are one win from a World Series championship after fine pitching displays from Justin Verlander and Ryan Pressly held off the Philadelphia Phillies 3-2 in Game 5 on Thursday.

Verlander claimed his first-ever World Series victory in his ninth start with six strikeouts across five innings before Pressly's five-out save at Bank Citizens Park.

The Astros' defense came up big when it mattered too, with first baseman Trey Mancini making a huge play from Kyle Schwarber's low line drive to close the eighth inning, along with outfielder Chas McCormick leaping and holding a J.T. Realmuto shot on the wall for the second out in the ninth.

Houston go 3-2 up ahead of Game 6 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday, with the Game 5 winner when the World Series has been tied going on to win 30 of the previous 45 editions.

Jeremy Pena, who had three hits for the game, drove in Jose Altuve in the first inning, before Schwarber's leadoff homer over right field squared it up.

In the fourth, Pena blasted Phillies' starter Noah Syndergaard over Schwarber's head at left field for his fourth homer this postseason, becoming the first rookie shortstop to hit a blast in World Series history.

Altuve, who got on base three times, plated in the eighth inning from Yordan Alvarez's ground ball which first baseman Rhys Hoskins tried to charge.

Jean Segura's RBI single drove in Nick Castellanos in the bottom of the eighth, but Pressly held his nerve after replacing Rafael Montero, with Mancini's clutch play on first base closing the inning.

Alec Bohm's brilliant double play ended the Astros' ninth, but the Phillies were denied despite Bryce Harper getting on base for the fourth time in the game, with McCormick plucking a great catch before Castellanos hit to Pena who threw to Mancini to close it out.

Cristian Javier received a welcome pep talk from his parents after playing his role in the first ever combined no-hitter in postseason history as the Houston Astros tied the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies at 2-2.   Opening pitcher Javier went through the first six innings without conceding, with relievers Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero and Ryan Pressly playing their role as the Astros ran out 5-0 winners in Game 4.   Javier became only the second pitcher in World Series history to have no hits allowed in six or more innings, joining Don Larsen, who achieved the feat with the New York Yankees back in 1956 with a perfect game in Game 5 against the Brooklyn Dodgers.   The 25-year-old spoke after the game about how some conciliatory words from his parents after the Phillies took out Game 3 7-0 played a pivotal role in his showing.   "Let's try to stay positive," Javier said were the words from his mother and father, who had flown from the Dominican Republic to Philadelphia. "God willing, you'll throw a no-hitter.   "This is the best gift I could have ever given my family, my parents. To me, it's even more special knowing that they were able to see that in person."

It was only the third occasion of a no-hitter in any postseason game in MLB history. Coincidentally, the last instance also took place at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park home, with Roy Halladay leading the way for the Phillies in the 2010 National League Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds.

Coincidentally, the Reds were coached at the time by now Astros manager Dusty Baker.

"That's what's strange about life. I remember being on the other end of that. It was the seventh inning, and it seemed like it was the second inning, and I looked up on the board, and it's the seventh inning already," Baker reflected.

"Then you're trying not to be no-hit, and then you're trying to win the ballgame and, yeah, that's pretty remarkable."

Game 5 takes place at the same venue on Thursday.

The Houston Astros pitched the second ever World Series no-hitter, and the first since 1956, in their 5-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in Wednesday's Game 4.

Starting pitcher Cristian Javier was the star of the show, opening the game with six shutout innings, allowing no hits and two walks in his 97 pitches.

Despite his bright start, the Astros threatened to leave him hanging without run-support as they began the fifth inning tied at 0-0, but an offensive explosion put them in the driver's seat.

The first five Astros batters of the fifth inning all reached base, with three consecutive singles to load the bases. That led to Yordan Alvarez driving in a run with a hit-by-pitch, before Alex Bregman made it 3-0 with a two-run double, marking the end of Aaron Nola's night on the mound for the Phillies.

They were not finished there, with a Kyle Tucker sacrifice-fly and a Yuli Gurriel RBI single capping a five-run inning.

After Javier was withdrawn from the game to begin the seventh frame, Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero and Ryan Pressly were given an inning each to close the show, and did so, combining to allow just one baserunner through a walk in the ninth inning.

The Astros finished with 10 hits in the contest, including two to rookie shortstop Jeremy Pena, and two to Gurriel.

With the win, the Astros have tied the series at 2-2. Game 5 will remain in Philadelphia, before the series heads back to Houston for Game 6, and Game 7 if necessary.

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