The long-term signing of Justin Verlander -- with the possibility of more on the horizon -- means the Tigers are rapidly taking on a mountain of long-term debt. The high-profile troubles of Boston and the New York Yankees, plus the new nouveau-riche spending of the Los Angeles Dodgers, have kept the Tigers' free-spending ways under the radar, but Verlander's additional five years mean Detroit has committed to more than $600 million in salaries over the next eight years. Verlander's five-year extension is counted as a seven-year deal because the remaining two seasons of his current pact were folded in, probably to reflect the no-trade nature of the contract. It totals a guaranteed $180 million with a $22 million option for 2020 if he finishes in the top five in the MVP voting for 2019. And $600,000 is just the floor. It's almost unthinkable, given the mindset of 83-year-old owner Mike Ilitch, that Detroit would let Miguel Cabrera go without extending him when his deal runs out after the 2015 season. The Tigers also have long-term deals with Prince Fielder and Anibal Sanchez. Forbes magazine estimated Detroit lost $400,000 last season even with two home World Series games, and its payroll this year will be at least $143 million exclusive of any in-season moves. In 2015, Detroit is committed to paying nearly $108 million to players currently under contract. Ilitch is a star-oriented owner, something he learned when his Detroit Red Wings had no salary constraints and won four Stanley Cups by accumulating high-salaried, high-profile players. Baseball uses taxes on payrolls above a certain level to rein in spending but the Tigers haven't hit that ceiling -- yet. Max Scherzer's contract is up after 2015 and a lot of factors are in play on his future with Detroit. A productive development program is essential for the way today's game is structured, but the Tigers' farm system, long on pitching for many years, is now short on power arms at the upper levels. It does, however, have some prime outfield prospects at all levels. THE GAME: JV shows his varsity stuff again. The Tigers scored three runs in the first two innings and one more late on a frigid opening day to the season, and that was all that ace Justin Verlander needed to lead Detroit to a 4-2 win over the Minnesota Twins on Monday at Target Field. Verlander pitched five scoreless innings, giving up three hits and two walks while striking out seven. The Twins' bats woke up after he left, but left-hander Phil Coke secured the save by recording the final two outs. Verlander befuddled many of the young Twins, including leadoff hitter Aaron Hicks, who went 0-for-4 and struck out three times while making his major league debut. Verlander got to the veterans as well, striking out Josh Willingham three times. "That's one of the best pitchers, so getting off the get-go with Verlander is kind of exciting," Hicks said. "But at the same time you start to understand why he is so good."
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