Justin Verlander is set to become a free agent at the end of the 2014 season if the Detroit Tigers do not sign him to an extension before then. Earlier this week, the Seattle Mariners signed ace Felix Hernandez to a seven-year, $175 million deal. Hernandez is only 26 and already one of the best pitchers in the game, so the deal can be considered somewhat of a hometown discount for the Mariners. What does it mean for Verlander?
Verlander won the American League Cy Young and MVP awards in 2011. He has led the AL in strikeouts in three of the past four seasons and has been incredibly durable, pitching more than 200 innings in every season since 2007. The right-hander will be 31 in 2014, and speculation has already begun that he could be the first pitcher ever to ink a $200 million contract. On Tuesday, John Paul Morosi of FOX Sports asked Verlander if he is curious about the open market.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I think that’d be a blast. If I have two more years like I just had, it would be pretty interesting. You know how competitive I am. It’s kind of fun thinking about having teams battle for you.”
That’s easy for Verlander to say at the moment, since the Tigers have not opened any type of discussion about a potential extension. However, he did add that he would love to stay in Detroit if the team had him in their long-term plans.
“If they were to start talking about an extension and say, ‘We only have a two-year window to win a World Series,’ that’s not exactly what I want to hear — and I don’t think that’s the case whatsoever,” he said. “You look at Mr. Ilitch. He’s been — in my opinion — the best owner in baseball. A year ago he signed a guy [Fielder] to a 9-year, $200-million-something dollar deal. That shows you it’s not just a ‘window’ plan. It’s a ‘future’ plan.
“If they did want to extend (my contract), obviously that would take quite a commitment on their part. That shows a sign, too, that they’re planning for the future.”
No matter how loyal a player is to his team, the concept of teams fighting it out for the right to spend $200 million on you is fun to think about. The Tigers are one of a handful of teams who can afford someone like Verlander. If they’re wise, they won’t let him hit the open market.
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