Pirates interested in Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo

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ESPN’s Jayson Stark reported last week that the Indians are listening to offers on outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who’ll be entering his final year of arbitration in 2013 before hitting free agency leading into 2014.

And now the Tribe might have a legitimate suitor.

According to beat writer Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Pirates have expressed recent interest in acquiring Choo to bolster their lineup and play left field. But word is it might take Starling Marte to pluck him from Cleveland.

Marte, 23, got promoted to the major leagues on Thursday and homered on the first pitch of his career. The Pirates’ top offensive prospect was batting .286/.347/.500 with 12 home runs, 21 doubles, 13 triples and 21 stolen bases in 431 plate appearances at Triple-A Indianapolis before his call-up.

The second-place Pirates have already acquired left-handed starter Wandy Rodriguez from the Astros, but they need to improve an offense that has scored 87 fewer runs than the third-place Cardinals in order to stay in the mix for a postseason spot. The Bucs do currently lead the NL Wild Card chase.

Choo, a 30-year-old native of South Korea, has an .871 OPS and 12 homers in 96 games this season.

Report: Astros extend Justin Verlander for two years, $66 million

Justin Verlander
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The Astros are in agreement with right-hander Justin Verlander on a two-year, $66 million extension, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com was among those to report on Friday. With no money deferred, the $33 million he’ll receive over the next two years will set a record AAV for major-league pitchers; something MLB Network’s Jon Heyman says matters to Verlander, who “cares how his deals affect markets (and fellow players).”

While it’s far from the five-year, $100 million extension teammate Alex Bregman signed with the club on Friday, the deal will give the Astros a bigger window to consider their long-term plans for the ace before he hits free agency again. Prior to Saturday’s agreement, Verlander’s original contract — the hefty seven-year, $180 million arrangement he reached with the Tigers in 2013 — was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2019 season.

It’s difficult to overestimate the value Verlander has provided to the Astros since they acquired him from the Tigers back in 2017. He was named the 2017 ALCS MVP following seven shutout innings in a must-win Game 6 performance and helped the Astros clinch their first franchise World Series title. In 2018, he earned his seventh career All-Star distinction and received consideration for both AL Cy Young and MVP awards after pitching to a 16-9 record in 34 starts with a 2.52 ERA, 1.6 BB/9, 12.2 SO/9 (the product of a career-high 290 strikeouts), and 6.7 fWAR over 214 innings.

The deal has not been confirmed by the team.