Walkoff Woodward

Concerning Detroit Baseball
February 11, 2013

What We Talk About When We Talk About a Justin Verlander Contract Extension

verlander0211Frankly, I can’t think of any reason why Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers shouldn’t marry themselves together for the next decade or two. I mean, given what we know of pitcher counts and taxations on arms and the like, we should all just ignore the 25,428 pitches thrown, 6,408 batters faced, and 1553 total innings played before his thirtieth birthday and assume that he’s going to be the first $200m pitcher in baseball history.

Personally, I have no problem with a ridiculous contract extension. It’s not my money, well maybe a few pennies is, nor am I the type of person who would ever criticize someone for making as much money as he can. So, that’s all a moot point from my angle, and that’s about as much a point of view as I’m going to have regarding something that really affects me about the same as how much Tom Cruise donates to Scientology.

However, since the Seattle Mariners and Felix Hernandez agreed to agree to a contract extension the whole entirety of the baseball world is now discussing the next pitchers and teams who will exchange extravagant monies in the near to foreseeable future. Obviously, given Justin Verlander‘s stature among the baseball elitists, his current contract situation, and the Detroit Tigers stature in the financial marketplace, most people assume that they will soon make certain numbers known to one another and after a few words are discussed some numbers and words will be agreed upon and the entire baseball world will react, write some stuff, spew some opinions, then move on.

There’s something I want to touch on, and it’s the way people feel about money and how we correlate professional athletes and the money that they make. When I thought about writing this, I thought about what Justin Verlander would do with all his inevitable money. I mean, who doesn’t? (And the athletes who say they don’t care about money, truly don’t, because they already have it.) Then I got talking to a baseball friend over text messages  and he made a comment that got me thinking even more.

So, they give him $200 mill. What does he do? He says he loves this damn city, so why doesn’t he do something to help it?

I didn’t respond – well, I did – but probably not the way he wanted me too. He probably wanted me to agree with him, as both of us have lived within the city limits in the not too distant past. In fact, he still does. But that comment got me thinking about how we, as fans, perceive money in major league baseball. For most of us, we can’t fathom what that money means, I believe it’s called the 99%. To us, salaries are merely meaningless numbers that athletes are awarded based on their talent and past performances. Certain players receive larger numbers than others whether it be of fair value or not and we all react accordingly.

What money in baseball means to us is this: teams have a specific number than they can provide to all of their products, or entertainers which Dave Dombrowski has recently likened them, and if they give too many numbers to one specific individual then that limits to total amount of numbers that they can attribute to other specific individuals. This affects how good the team is, how active they can be on the free agent market. It’s not about the actual money, it can’t be – there are too many problems to be solved with it, it’s about how much a specific team is limiting itself in the future.

There is little doubt that based on all of their talent, the Tigers are going to have to soon part ways with some of it because they are going to run out of resources. The pending Verlander extension, Miguel Cabrera, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister. Is the combination of Justin Verlander and Prince Fielder going to hurt all of them or some of them or one of them? The answer is, obviously, we don’t know. The Tigers should, if I were asked, focus on Verlander and Cabrera, Cabrera specifically. Players like Scherzer and Fister and Austin Jackson can all be replaced in any given year. But players with Cabrera’s and Verlander’s talent are rare and difficult commodities to obtain.

So, what we talk about when we talk about Justin Verlander, or Miguel Cabrera, or any contract for that matter shouldn’t be the monetary value or what they should do with that money, but how it affects the team going forward. I think this is all quite obvious stuff, and I’m afraid I’ve probably bored you and I applaud that you’ve stuck it out this long and are reading these words.

The Tigers will probably, definitely, be overpaying Prince Fielder in the last two or three years of his contract. How much that affects the team will solely reside on Fielder’s immense shoulder’s (and, I think he is fantastic and in no way will you ever hear me suggest they shouldn’t have signed him, but the facts can’t be ignored). How much will the Tigers be overpaying Justin Verlander, how much will they be overpaying Miguel Cabrera if they extend him as well?

These are all questions that the Detroit Tigers have to consider. When 2018-2019 rolls around and they have three players who are roughly 35 years old and making upwards of $60m a year, are they going to be able to field a competitive team? I think the answer lies in the remnants of the Philadelphia Phillies of 2012, and the remnants of the soon to be witnessed New York Yankees of 2013. Watch, and see what albatross contracts do to ‘experienced’ teams. The St. Louis Cardinals couldn’t take that chance with Albert Pujols, the Los Angeles Angels did.

Is there any way the Tigers can let Justin Verlander go?

Is there any way the fair weather fans of the team will accept it?

  • Derek

    Seeing Verlander leave would definately be difficult but I would not neccesarily be dissapointed if they let him walk. The Tigers got extremely lucky with his performance during his last contract as he definately earned every penny he made. However his next contract would most likely have the opposite effect. Even with his insane skills he probably only has 3 maybe 4 years left of his current production. Paying 25 million per year for 4 years of a washed up pitcher along with 20 million a year to a washed up DH would kill the rest of the team. Crazy question but what would Verlander demand trade wise at the deadline? I know you proposed a similiar question with Cabrera last year….

    • http://www.walkoffwoodward.com/ Josh Worn

      I haven’t looked at any of the numbers but the starting point would be a controllable three win per year starting pitcher and two top ten prospects, probably one arm and one bat for the Tigers to even starting to listen. That won’t happen though.

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