What Felix Hernandez Contract Means For Verlander; Tigers

The Seattle Mariners finalized an extension with 2010 Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez for 7 years and $175 Million.  With Felix Hernandez as possibly the closest to a sure thing when pitching to Justin Verlander this contract extension with factor in to any future deal between the Tigers and Verlander.

However outside of average yearly salary, there shouldn’t be too much else in common to the two contracts extensions.  There are quite a few similarities to the pitchers however there are even more differences between Hernandez and Verlander when signing the deals.

Most importantly, Hernadez is only 26 years old and will only be 35 at the end of the extension while Verlander is already 30 and will be 32 at the start of any extension.  This difference will play a key factor into what the Tigers are willing to offer to Verlander.

A 7 year contract to a 32 year old pitcher that will undoubtedly have more innings pitched than any other pitcher in baseball over the previous 5 years is not smart baseball business.  While still effective after 35 is not out of the question for a player that has the drive and work ethic and Michael Jordan like hatred of losing, he will not be a $25 Million per year pitcher at that point.

Verlander recently made comments about free agency and looking forward to it, to see what teams will offer, which should not be a concern for Tigers fans, as Verlander is most likely looking for someone to offer a silly looking Albert Pujols like contract.  However, the TV money that teams have been using to escalate contracts is looking like it won’t be around in the next few years, as the TV landscape continues to change.  Therefore, a 7 year $175 million contract may not be there for Verlander.

There is no question that Justin Verlander, a future Hall of Fame pitcher, who will have over 3000 career strike outs, over 250 wins and most likely more Cy Young Awards and hopefully at least one World Series ring, is more valuable to the Detroit Tigers than any other team in baseball.  Just like Derek Jeter is for the Yankees, Verlander is a player the Tigers will want to keep until he retires.

A contract extension of 5 years and $125 Million is excessive but it matches the yearly average of Hernandez and takes Verlander through his age 36 season, one year beyond what Hernandez received.  It also allows him to sign another contract, possibly for 2-3 years based on injuries/performance in the $40 Million range, which comes very close to the total value of Hernandez as well.

The advantage to the Tigers of doing a contract this way is it does protect them against paying Verlander $25 million if he isn’t pitching past 35.  Despite not having an injury history and a smooth, consistent motion, pitching is still a violent thing and for as many innings and pitches and as hard as Verlander throws, an injury late in his career has to be a major concern.

There may be a team out there willing to over pay and top Hernandez’s contract for Verlander in free agency, but that would be a team like the Houston Astros and his contract would prevent them from surrounding him with players good enough to keep the team in the playoff hunt every year, so there is the trade off he makes.  If he wants to beat a contract to be the highers paid player or if he is fine with being one of the highest paid while still winning baseball games and challenging for the World Series.

*And no, there is no “Hometown Discount” as that is a silly phrase and idea.  It is simply maximizing your value, earning as much as possible while still being comfortable, if a player wants to stay in a city because he likes it there or likes his teammates it isn’t a discount, it is a part of the compensation another team has to make in order to get them to walk away.  If you like your job, your co-workers, the PTO they offer think of the amount of money it would take for you to go to another job, it could be a small raise or it could be double your salary, factors like distance to office, hours needed to work, reputation of the company come into play…same goes for professional athletes.  You aren’t giving your employer a “Hometown Discount” you are just factoring in all things around you for your compensation.*

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