Will the Tigers make Justin Verlander the first $200 million pitcher? He made comments in a recent interview with Jeff Passen about making 200 million dollars in his next deal. Verlander becomes a free agent after the 2014 season. Should Detroit or any other team, pay that much for a player that only plays once every fifth day? Some teams think so, in February 2013 Felix Hernandez signed a seven year contract extension with the Seattle Mariners worth $175 Million. In December 2012 Zach Greinke reached a six year deal worth $147 Million with the Dodgers. All three pitchers are similar both in age and stats so what would make Verlander worth $200 Million? Verlander has been an All-Star more times than Greinke and Hernandez put together. Justin was the Rookie of the year in 2006, AL MVP in 2011, the same year he won the Cy Young, threw his second no-hitter and won the pitching triple crown. That is a pretty impressive resume and I'm sure he thinks if Hernandez can make $175 Million with his body of work then $200 Million shouldn't be an issue.
Hernandez is four years younger, has a lower career ERA, more strikeouts, a Cy Young Award and has thrown a perfect game but no league MVP, no triple crown and he has less wins and more losses then Verlander. Greinke is one year younger then Verlander, he has less wins, more losses, a higher ERA and less strikeouts. Greinke is a one time All-Star and won the Cy Young Award. An examination of the reasons Hernandez and Greinke got such large contracts might be helpful to understand the reason Verlander would think Detroit would be interested in making him the highest paid pitcher in baseball.
Seattle has made the post season four times in their history but haven’t been there in eleven years and haven’t been deep into the playoffs since losing to the Yankees in the American League Championship Series in 2001. The Mariners moved to their present home, Safeco Field, in 1999. The facility was paid for at tax payer expense and the Mariners have been trying to rebuild feelings after nearly moving the team. In other words the Mariners are looking to win and win now, at any cost. King Felix is the cornerstone of an otherwise weak pitching staff and the Mariners, who are trying to be relevant again, didn't have a choice in giving him a huge deal.
The Dodgers, on the other hand, are spending like money is going out of style in a quest to return their troubled franchise to prominence. The Dodgers haven’t won a World Series since 1988 and have missing the playoffs the last three years. The Dodgers have suffered several controversies including the divorce of owner Frank McCourt, the 2009 bankruptcy and the tragic 2011 beating of a Giants fan. All of these have tarnished the reputation of the storied franchise. The new owners, the Guggenheim Group, are trying to erase these images from the minds of baseball fans, with a win now attitude. The signing Greinke was just the latest step in that process. Greinke is just the latest addition to a pitching staff that boasts the likes of Josh Beckett, Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang and 2011 Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw. The rest of the Dodgers roster is also full of big names like Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. The Dodgers are obviously out to win it all and win as soon as possible. So we can see that the signings of Greinke and Hernandez were motivated by concerns of the franchise, do the Tigers have the same or similar issues?Is Detroit in the same shoes as the Mariners or the Dodgers? I don’t think so, the Tigers have great fan relations and aren’t trying to earn back fans after a new stadium deal. The Tigers have made the playoffs the last two years and been to the World Series twice since 2006. Detroit is also not mired in any controversies and aren’t attempting to erase the memories of fans. They have a strong rotation, after Verlander, the Tigers have Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello. The rest of the roster is well stocked with big names including reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez.
If it isn't any of the reasons I have attributed to the Mariners or the Dodgers then what would posses the Tigers to pay $200 Million for a pitcher? The reason: Tiger fans deserve a World Championship they have waited patiently since 1984 and if any city needs a title it is Detroit and the key part of that title is good pitching and the key to good pitching for Detroit is Justin Verlander and Mike Ilitch, Dave Dombroskl and Jim Leyland know that Verlander is good for at least 17 wins a season and his pitching makes everybody else better and all those reasons are good enough to make Justin Verlander the highest paid pitcher in MLB history.