Justin Verlander stays in Detroit for five years, $80 million

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.

Detroit Tigers vs St. Louis Cardinals

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.

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  1. James said...

    The CHONE projections for Verlander and Hernandez are virtually identical.  Hernandez projects as a 5 win pitcher and Verlander projects to be worth 4.9 wins.

    Hernandez is the better pitcher, but I don’t think the difference between the two is as vast as many believe.  Their combined Fangraphs WAR and Rally’s WAR the past 4 years are eerily similar.

  2. Mike said...

    First, there are numerous errors in this post. Verlander’s poor season came in 08, not 07. Before last season, 07 was Verlander’s best season to date. He’s also not 25; he’s 26 now and will be 27 next season.

    With that out of the way, I think it’s pretty funny that you say “King Felix is far and away the better pitcher” when Verlander was better than him last year according to each of the stats you mentioned. Better FIP, WAR, xFIP and more Ks.

    I get that Felix has youth on his side and could still improve, but I don’t see how you can say that Felix is clearly the better pitcher when he wasn’t last year.

  3. Eric Cioe said...

    This article is rife with errors.

    2007 was Verlander’s good year, with an uptick in strikeouts, 18 wins, 200 innings, and a no-hitter.  You’re confusing 2007 and 2008.

    And Hernandez “far and away the better pitcher”?  Give me a break.  Verlander had a lower FIP, more strikeouts, and fewer walks in 2009.  His 2008 is pretty clearly an aberration and his 2006, 2007, and 2009 numbers are all either pretty great or simply outstanding. 

    And absolutely, the two years of age should be noted, but it should also be noted that pitchers and hitters age on different curves, if pitchers can be said to age on a curve at all.  Even if Verlander loses half a mile per hour on his fastball per year starting right now and Felix’s stays the same, it would be Opening Day of 2013 before Felix is throwing harder.

  4. LeeTro said...

    After the title, this article is quite confusing.  First, it’s Verlander’s LAST 2 years of arb. bought out.  Second, Felix is only a slightly better pitcher, due to his great GB rate.  If Verlander’s K rate can stay above one an inning, he’ll basically be Felix’s equal.  Third, you’re insinuating that he’ll get hurt, citing his jump in innings and fatigue issues in 2006.  Then you say he has no injury issues.  Pick a side.  Fourth, the last 2 sentences completely contradict each other.  I’m assuming you meant that he should be worth $20M per year to make your last statement valid.  Please do some common-sense proofreading along with the grammar.

  5. Mike said...


    Felix was more consistent from 06-08. I’m not disputing that. A big reason for that was Verlander’s terrible (although not so bad according to advanced metrics) 08 season, and also his low K rate for a pitcher of his ability.

    However, after last season, how can anyone point to Ks and suggest that, because Felix has more in the last four seasons, Felix is better? Verlander had more Ks last season than any AL pitcher since Pedro’s hey-day in Boston. 06-08 is irrelevant to that unless you believe 09 was a fluke (which I don’t think you do).

    My main point is simply that I don’t see how anyone can look at the two last year and come to the conclusion that Felix is clearly better, particularly when the numbers you’re quoting favor Verlander at least half the time. If you want to say “Felix is the better bet for the next five years,” I can understand where you’re coming from. But “clearly the better pitcher” right now I simply can’t buy. There’s a reason most projections for next year have them as virtual equals.

  6. Mike Rogers said...

    Evan: The problem that I have with your link is:

    -ERA and ERA+ is double counting the ERA.

    -Felix’s FIP’s are way better than Verlander’s until you account for the park factor. Comerica is a big park but doesn’t play like a pitchers park (particularly the last 2-3 years), while Safeco is more of a pitchers park, which…

    -…affects the run support to some degree. But, that aside, I don’t look at wins for a pitcher, so I don’t care about the run support.

    From 2006 onward, the fangraphs value for both pitchers (Felix had an extended stay up with Seattle in 2005 that throws the numbers off a bit) the two have accumulated the following:

    Verlander: 18.9 WAR, $80.9 million in value.
    Hernandez: 18.6 WAR, $79.2 million in value.

    Now, Hernandez is the younger pitcher and, thus, should deserve a bigger contract in my opinion. However, the other side of that is the Tigers are buying out what is likely to be Verlander’s entire prime while Felix will be 28 when he can hit FA again (I think). Thus, they bought out less of his prime years so-to-speak.

  7. Evan Brunell said...

    Great point, Mike.

    To the others: I think you’re misunderstanding some of my comments. The no-hitter comment, for example, was made of Verlander in general, not a specific year.

  8. Mike said...

    For the record, I have no beef if someone would rather take Felix than Verlander. The guy is incredible, and I think stats like FIP tend to hurt Felix because they seem to bring down some ground ball guys. Verlander’s FIP is helped by the same thing his ERA is hurt by: his OF defense last year wasn’t anything special (the infield defense was incredible, but he’s a flyball pitcher, which is part of the reason why Porcello’s FIP was so high).

    I just think that last year Verlander was every bit as good as Felix, and he might have been better, and that’s what we would seem to be talking about over the next couple years (rather than the first three years). If Verlander’s K rate goes back down to 07 levels, then Felix is clearly the better pitcher.

  9. Mike Rogers said...

    Evan, just minor quibbles, so no huge complaints from me. If both were free agents tomorrow and I could only pick one, I’d take Felix 10 times out of 10.

  10. D Leaberry said...

    $ 16 million a year in this economic cliimate is a lot of money.  Yet Verlander brings many good things.  He’s been very durable with 30-35 starts for four straight years.  The 260+ innings he pitched is impressive.  He matured last year with his walks and hit batsmen down.  His strikeout to walk ratio was excellent.  If Detroit gets five years of Roger Clemens/Bob Gibson/Tom Seaver/Jim Palmer, the big salary will be worth it even if they eventually trade him to the Yankees, Dodgers or Red Sox for youth.

  11. Mike Rogers said...

    Mike: regarding the Tigers outfield defense, that’s largely a misnomer. It went mostly unnoticed, but Clete Thomas was a beast in the OF last year (fluky beast, though) and posted a raw UZR of 13.4 in 669 innings (25.6 UZR/150). Had he qualified on the leader boards, Thomas’ UZR would’ve put him 6th between David DeJesus and Juan Rivera.

    Now, he’s not that good, but last year, that bolstered the Tigers OF defense to being 8th in the league behind only Seattle, Tampa, San Fran, Cincy, Oakland, Pittsburgh, and tied with Texas. The rest of the team had a UZR of 27.3 while the OF in Detroit was at 16.3 runs saved.

    So, the OF was part of Verlander’s success in 2009, though probably not a ton given he K’d 27% of the batters he faced.

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