Verlander extension hinges on sixth year

The Detroit Tigers and ace Justin Verlander(notes) have discussed a five-year contract extension worth around $75 million, though the right-hander is staying firm in his desire for a sixth year, sources told Yahoo! Sports on Friday.

Verlander, who will turn 27 near the beginning of spring training, finished third in the American League Cy Young voting last season after going 19-9 and leading the league with 240 innings and 269 strikeouts. He is currently scheduled to go to arbitration with the Tigers, asking for a $9.5 million salary in 2010 with Detroit's counteroffer at $6.9 million. He also will be arbitration-eligible a year from now and could become a free agent after the 2011 season.

The proposed extension, first reported by Yahoo! Sports, would mirror the five-year, $78 million deal Seattle gave to Felix Hernandez(notes) this month. The Tigers, as Seattle did, would buy out three free-agent years with a five-year deal.

Verlander would prefer the security of a sixth season, which would take the value of the deal in to the $93 million to $95 million range. The Tigers certainly will have the financial flexibility to make it happen. Following 2010, starting pitchers Jeremy Bonderman(notes) ($12.5 million), Dontrelle Willis(notes) ($12 million) and Nate Robertson(notes) ($10 million) will be free agents. Should outfielder Magglio Ordonez(notes) not trigger an at-bat-based option, his $18 million would come off the books as well.

The anchor of a strong young rotation featuring Rick Porcello(notes) and Max Scherzer(notes), Verlander recaptured his top-of-the-line-starter status last year after a down 2008. His fastball, which had crackled at 100 mph when in 2006 he won Rookie of the Year, regained velocity, and his command sharpened.

Verlander has expressed his desire to stay with Detroit – "I want to be here for a long time," he told reporters this week – and the Tigers have reciprocated the feelings.

"We've said all along," Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski said recently, "that we're hopeful to keep Justin Verlander part of our organization for a long time."

A sixth season would ensure that happens.