What an Easter gift. As predicted, Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander has agreed to a record-breaking contract extension that keeps him with the club through 2019. His seven-year, $180 million deal now makes him the highest paid pitcher in MLB history. The option, if exercised, would bring the contract total to $202 million.
Of all mega pitching deals over the last 10 years, the Justin Verlander deal seems to be the most deserved. He’s stayed the most consistent, injury-free and dominant.
Not only is Justin Verlander the best starting pitcher in baseball, he also plays for a winning franchise that is very close to claiming a World Series title. His best year was in 2011, where he took home both the MVP and Cy Young awards as well as became the 28th pitcher in baseball history to win the AL pitching triple crown. Last season, he finished second in the AL Cy Young voting and eighth in AL MVP voting.
All of these accolades are nice, but still, after two heart-breaking World Series losses in seven seasons, Justin Verlander winning the big one would be the Mt. Everest of his career and would undoubtedly punch his ticket into the Hall of Fame. Even without a World Series crown, he’s still looking good at this point for an HOF nod. Gaylord Perry and Don Sutton are two current Hall of Fame pitchers who never won a World Series.
Getting this contract extension done before the start of the season was an important move by the Tigers organization. This is an investment they’re confident will pay off.
Justin Verlander isn’t playing dumb. He knows he’s starting to separate himself from the rest of the pack. Last week, before the deal was struck, he made comments to Yahoo! Sports when asked if he wanted to become baseball’s first $200 million pitcher:
“I don’t play this game to make money. But I do feel like it would be nice to be compensated for what I feel like I’ve been: one of the best, if not the best, the last few years.”
With the trends of today’s pitcher contracts, one has to wonder if the Justin Verlander deal will stay the highest for years to come. If the Rays’ David Price or the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw continue their success on the mound, look for their clubs to match or do one better than Justin Verlander’s deal. Regardless, each should be thanking him right now, because he just raised the bar.