The Associated Press is reporting that right-handed starter Justin Verlander has agreed to a five-year, $80 million deal with the Tigers. The deal buys out Verlander’s final two years of arbitration and three years of free agency.
It’s a similar deal to Felix Hernandez’s extension, which was five years and $78 million. The 26-year old Verlander has two years on Hernandez and King Felix is far and away the better pitcher over the last several years, but it seems as if Hernandez’s signing was a map for Verlander’s extension. Verlander benefited from Hernandez’s terms, a better win record and more All-Star appearances despite better run support.
Moving away from that, the deal locks Verlander up through his age 31 season, freeing him up for a deal similar to what A.J. Burnett and John Lackey got (and Josh Beckett will get after the year), so another big payday is en route. Verlander suffered through a poor 2008 after two straight years of emerging as a young right-hander. The first of that year was the Tigers’ 2006 postseason run in which Verlander tossed 207.2 innings total and experienced a couple bouts with arm fatigue. He had a similar year in 2007, pitching a total of 201.2 innings. In 2008, his strikeout rate declined and walk rate rose, but he arrested both categories in 2009 while throwing an obscene 240 innings and an American League-leading 269 punchouts.
He posted the best strikeout rate of his career, with 10.09 whiffs per nine inning against a scant 2.36 walks allowed, also a career-high. At a listed 6’5″ with 200 lbs and no injury issues whatsoever, he’s morphing into the best young workhorse in the game with a no-hitter to his credit already. FanGraphs valued him at an amazing $37.1 million this past year, coming off his 3.45 ERA and 3.26 xFIP. It’s possible that will be the highest mark of Verlander’s career, but there’s reason to think he’s worth at least $20 million a year over the next five years. While Hernandez’s contract is the best value moving forward, Verlander’s deal is no slouch either.