Justin Verlander is expected to turn down the Houston Astros’ $18.4 million qualifying offer and test free agency. The veteran starter isn’t likely to remain on the open market for long, and he could wind up with one of Houston’s top rivals.

The New York Yankees are one of the frontrunners to sign Verlander, according to reports. Given his reported preferences and the team’s need for a frontline starter, New York might be the best fit for the veteran.

According to MLB Network’s Ken Rosenthal, Verlander most likely wants to join an East Coast team that trains in Florida, a description which the Yankees fit. ESPN’s Jeff Passan has predicted that the Yankees will sign Verlander in a deal that could come together well before Thanksgiving. MLB insider Jon Heyman has also listed the Yankees as a possible destination for Verlander.

The Yankees were one of the many teams in Florida to watch Verlander pitch earlier this month. Verlander held a workout for potential suitors to showcase his stuff after Tommy John surgery limited him to just one start over the last two MLB seasons.

The Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox are also viewed as contenders to sign Verlander. If the 38-year-old can pick up where he left off in the 2019 season, he could potentially shift the balance of power in the AL East.

The Red Sox beat the Yankees in the 2021 AL Wild-Card Game as Gerrit Cole, Verlander’s former teammate with the Astros, came up short for New York. The Blue Jays finished a game out of the wild-card race.

Other teams rumored to be in the hunt for Verlander include the World Series champion Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox and the Blue Jays.

Prior to getting hurt, Verlander was the American League’s top pitcher. Verlander won the 2019 AL Cy Young award, leading the league with 21 wins and a 0.80 WHIP in 223 innings. Verlander was the AL Cy Young runner-up in 2016 and 2018. He had a fifth-place finish in 2017.

In 74 starts with Houston, Verlander had a 2.45 ERA and 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings.

Justin Verlander Houston Astros Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros pitches against the Boston Red Sox during Game One of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park on October 13, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo: Tim Bradbury/Getty Images