Saturday, November 24, 2012

Framing an extension for Justin Verlander

**Add-on: Justin Verlander actually signed a 7-year extension worth $180 million with a club option that could total $202 million, so I was right on par with salary ($180 million) AND got the length of contract right (potentially 8 years), but the $180MM was over the span of 7 years, not 8.

If you're the Detroit Tigers, you're reaping the benefits of having the best hitter in the game AND the best pitcher in the game. That doesn't happen very often, not in the world of baseball. Nonetheless, the Tigers have those assets, and will for at least the next two seasons.

Key words being: the next two seasons.

Who WOULDN'T want to extend this guy?
Justin Verlander, the game's best pitcher, the 2011 Cy Young recipient and AL Most Valuable Player, is eligible for free agency after the 2014 season. Two seasons away from free agency isn't far off at all, and the longer the Tigers wait to try to extend Verlander, the less leverage they have, and the less likely they are to keep him, which is why they need to start talking extension with the game's best pitcher this offseason.

But where to even begin the talks? In my last blog post, I said the Tigers would be watching the San Francisco Giants' negotiations with their prized ace Tim Lincecum very closely, because his contract would likely be a comparable, and a starting point, in extension talks with Verlander. Things can change awfully fast in a year, because Lincecum went from being one of the games' best pitchers to one of the worst, a career worst 5.18 ERA, 15 losses, a notable drop in velocity, and the first time in five years he hadn't thrown 200 innings. There's no comparable anymore there, so where else is there to look? Zack Grienke, arguably the winter's top free agent, could be a place to start, but he hasn't signed a contract yet, and likely won't for a few weeks.

In other words, Verlander is his own pitcher, comparable to no one. When you're comparable to no one, you have all the leverage in the world. So you'd think that the best place to start would be the highest paid right-handed pitcher ever, right? Wrong.

Matt Cain of the Giants is the highest paid right-handed pitcher ever. He signed an 8-year, $139.75MM deal last year, but let's compare his average numbers to Verlander's over the past four years:

Matt Cain: 14 wins, 2.93 ERA, 220 innings pitched, 180 strikeouts, 1.097 WHIP, and collected a total value of 16.5 in WAR.

Justin Verlander: 19.5 wins, 2.96 ERA, 239 innings pitched, 244 strikeouts, 1.080 WHIP, and collected a total value of 25.2 in WAR.

In reality, the numbers are hardly comparable, Verlander is indisputably the better pitcher in just about every facet, while pitching in a tougher league. So the only thing you can do is give the man exactly what he deserves: the largest contract for a pitcher, ever.

According to fangraphs, since he signed his five-year, $80 million contract extension, he's been worth approximately $29.36MM per season. Obviously, a pitcher being paid $29MM per season would not only be unprecedented, but absolutely crazy. However, this amount is not crazy for a pitcher the caliber of Verlander. He is being paid $20MM the next two seasons, and will likely think that he deserves a raise, and rightfully so. He will probably earn something around $27-$28MM a year for at least a couple of years over the duration of his new deal. He's also going to want a longer-term contract, probably exceeding five years, and the riskiest long-term deals are deals given to pitchers, who constantly get hurt and easily deteriorate.

But consider the following: Verlander has never spent a day on the disabled list, and his durability will likely warrant his agency to argue that his longevity makes him deserving of a deal exceeding five or six years. He also is the face of a franchise whose fans idolize him. He may want a chance to pitch in a big(ger) market, but he may never be more revered or more valuable than he is in Detroit, which gives Detroit a bargaining advantage in that aspect, but no matter what, they're going to have to pay him like he is most valuable in the city of Detroit.

My offer to Justin Verlander: 8 years, $180 million. This easily makes him the highest paid pitcher in the game, possibly also giving him the highest average annual salary in the game, and, if you structure it properly, you may also have enough assets leftover to extend Miguel Cabrera, the aforementioned game's best hitter, when his contract expires a year later.

Agree? Disagree? Too much? Too Little? The debate has only just begun.

No comments:

Post a Comment