According to the Associated Press, the Tigers have agreed to a five-year, $80 MM contract with Justin Verlander. The deal could be announced as early as today.
Verlander and the Tigers had been working towards a long-term deal for the past few weeks, since they exchanged arbitration figures at the beginning of January. Verlander had asked for $9.5 MM while the Tigers had countered with $6.9 MM. The deal will continue Dave Dombrowski’s streak of avoiding arbitration with his players. No Tiger has gone to a hearing since 2003.
What this deal also does is cements the idea that the November trade of Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson was not financially driven. At the time that deal was made, the sky was falling on the Tigers franchise, according to national media members. The words “fire sale” were tossed around and the likes of Peter Gammons and Ken Rosenthal began dreaming up one-sided deals the Tigers would be forced to accept to send players like Verlander and Miguel Cabrera off to the RedSox and Yankees.
But Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland both maintained the trade wasn’t about the money, that it was a baseball decision. Verlander’s new deal, coupled with the $14 MM handed out to closer Jose Valverde shows the Tigers were true to their word. They simply took the opportunity to sell high of Jackson and Granderson.
Verlander’s contract will run through the 2014 season and buy out two arbitration years plus three years of free agency. Cabrera is slated to be a Tiger through 2016.
As Kurt Mensching pointed out in a pair of tweets, there’s no guarantee Verlander stays in Detroit through the end of his contract. “Hate to be a party pooper, but Verlander signing a five-year deal doesn’t mean he’s in Detroit for five years. Tigers fans outta know better. He could be, or he could be traded at any time in the middle like someone else we might remember.” That someone else Kurt was referring to was Granderson of course.
I understand, I think, what Kurt is saying. When Granderson signed his extention to stay with Detroit long-term, he was a star on the rise. A five-tool outfielder who only figured to get better. But Granderson’s regression versus LH pitching made him expendable, and while the contract of Carlos Guillen might have been the one Dombrowski preferred to trade, Granderson’s team-friendly contract was more valuable to other clubs.
Certainly it is a possibility that Verlander, and even Cabrera, are dealt away before their contracts are up. It’s possible that the Tigers do hold that fire sale within the next five years. Nothing in this game is even certain. A lesson I’m sure we all learned in 2008.
But one of the rites of every Spring is the hope and optimism that comes with the opening of camp. Fans of every team get to dream, get to think “if we can get off to a good start and a couple of guys have big years, we can be a winner”. Perhaps Kurt just hasn’t gotten around to feeling that optimism yet.
Sure, Kurt, it’s entirely possible that Verlander won’t be a Tiger for the life of his contract. But it’s also possible that Verlander anchors a rotation for the next five years that features Rick Porcello, Max Scherzer, Jacob Turner, and Casey Crosby and that the Tigers play in three post-seasons.
If this deal tells you nothing else about the state of the franchise, it should tell you that Mike Illitch is still committed to spending money to build a winner. If that doesn’t make you feel good about the team going forward, perhaps you should look at the business models followed by the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals.
No, having an owner like Mr. Illitch doesn’t mean you will win, but it sure does mean you feel better about your chances. And right now, for the next five years I feel pretty good.
Now, about putting together an offense…