The Detroit Tigers haven’t been shy about throwing around some money the past couple of years. We all know that. We also are all well aware that the Tigers have put themselves in contention to win a World Series in the next year or two. They almost got there in 2012, and signing Torii Hunter and getting Victor Martinez back is only going to help.
A big part of the Tigers being the dominant force in the A.L. Central is Justin Verlander. The 29 year old Verlander has made himself into one of the best pitchers in the game, if not the best. Not only has Verlander turned himself into one of the most dominant pitchers in the game, he has begun to achieve that iconic status that Detroiters like to bestow upon its prized athletes. Verlander seemingly does everything right. He shuts down opponents, dates hot women, and does commercials that keep the Tigers in the conscience of mainstream America. In effect, he puts butts in the seats at Comerica Park, and provides the Tigers franchise with a valuable face.
The most important thing out of what I just said, besides the excellent pitching of course, is the iconic status that Verlander has reached in Detroit. Tigers fans aren’t going to want to think of a future with their ace pitcher toeing the mound for anyone but the Ole’ English D. Unfortunately, it’s a reality in today’s baseball that we have to face.
Make no mistake, the Detroit Tigers are paying Justin Verlander handsomely right now. In 2013, the Tigers superstar is poised to make 20M dollars. Most of us can’t even begin to dream of that kind of money, but that kind of scratch is a mere drop in the bucket for major league franchises, whose payrolls are beginning to get bloated like an average American’s stomach after the holidays. Favorable television contracts are allowing teams to get aggressive in their pursuits of the best players. We can see that with the Tigers own Anibal Sanchez making 80M dollars for five years.
Signings like Sanchez’ has lead us all to a great deal of speculation. If Sanchez is a 16 million dollar a year pitcher, what does that make Verlander? Some have postulated that 30M dollars a year isn’t out of the question. By some, I am talking about myself of course, but at a minimum, Verlander is likely to garner 25M plus a season. That is easily what he would get as free agent on today’s market. And Verlander isn’t even a free agent for two more years, meaning inflation hasn’t even taken it’s toll on that number.
The time for a Verlander extension is now.
I’m not mentioning anything the Tigers themselves probably don’t know, but there are a lot of things at play here. Do the Tigers wait out 2013 and see if they can win it all? If they do, maybe owner Mike Ilitch decides he would like to trade Verlander for a truckload of young talent instead of adding to his already large payroll. Does Verlander himself even want to sign an extension? I don’t know one way or the other if Verlander enjoys his time in Detroit. I tend to think he does, but the idea for a guy with his talent to accept any kind of hometown discount seems a bit absurd. A guy with his value on the open market shouldn’t ever take a hometown discount. He probably wouldn’t have to if there is mutual interest there. How long do the Tigers extend Verlander for?
When Verlander hits free agency in 2015, he will be 32 years old. There is no evidence that physically he is going to break down. In fact, Verlander seems like the kind of pitcher that has Nolan Ryan type staying power. He is in great physical condition, and mechanically he is sound. Another six years wouldn’t be out of the question, and would put his next contract at a 37 year old end.
Either way, the Tigers need to have a direction figured out soon. By not signing Verlander to an extension now and waiting they lessen his value in the trade market, and gamble with the idea that he may want to look elsewhere after 2014 when his contract is up.