The arbitration-avoiding contract deals continued today with Justin Verlander and the Tigers coming to an agreement on a five year, $80 million deal. Verlander had reportedly been holding out for a sixth guaranteed year, but ultimately settled for a deal that paid him just north of the deal that Felix Hernandez received last month. Verlander and Felix were both in the same contract situation, with two arbitration years left, so how do these two deals compare?
Felix is three years younger in age than Verlander, which is noteworthy, but given that Verlander is not exactly old at soon-to-be 27 and given how pitchers age, I do not feel this is that big of a deal. Hernandez had been slightly better than Verlander from 2006 through 2008, but as good as Felix was in 2009 – and he was very good – Verlander blew him out of the water. Verlander led the league in innings pitched, with 240, and strikeouts, with 269. Frankly, they are both near equals, each clearly one of the five best pitchers in the league.
Verlander is getting valued at a higher rate though. Not just off the extra $2 million in total value, which is really insignificant when talking about such large deals, but also because Verlander was expected to get less in arbitration for this upcoming season. While Felix seemed certain to fall in around $10 million, Verlander filed at $9.5 million and the Tigers countered at just under $7 million. I clearly would side with Verlander, but assuming they split the difference and signed a deal for a bit over $8 million, it increases the gap between Verlander and Hernandez over the final four years of their contracts to about $1 million per year. Still a very small amount, but worth noting.
I think the overall deal is sound for Detroit, but I am worried about their payroll. This deal likely pushes them over $120 million for 2010. If the team can hang on for the year, they will get significant relief in 2011 with the huge salaries of Nate Robertson, Magglio Ordonez and Dontrelle Willis coming off the books. In the meantime, it seems likely that teams will continue to circle around waiting for a Miguel Cabrera salary dump trade should the Tigers fail to compete in the AL Central.
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