Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander has agreed to a multi-year contract extension that could earn him $202 million over the next eight seasons, the richest contract ever for a pitcher.
Due $40 million over the next two seasons on his existing contract, Verlander and the Tigers extended that by $140 million – at an average annual value of $28 million – through the 2019 season. A vesting option for 2020 is worth another $22 million.
The guaranteed portion of the contract – $180 million – surpasses the previous high for a pitcher; Seattle's Felix Hernandez signed for $175 million over six years in February.
Verlander, who turned 30 in February, is among his generation’s most feared and decorated pitchers. He was the American League's Cy Young Award winner and Most Valuable Player in 2011. He was second in the Cy Young race last season and was third in 2009. He no-hit the Milwaukee Brewers in 2007, then the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011. He has led the AL in wins (twice), ERA, innings (three times) and strikeouts (three times).
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Already having spent big in recent years on Prince Fielder ($214 million) and Miguel Cabrera ($152.3 million), the Tigers – and owner Mike Ilitch – locked up Verlander two seasons before the right-hander could be a free agent. And while long-term deals with pitchers are considered risky, Verlander has made at least 30 starts in each of his seven major-league seasons and at least 33 in every season since 2008.
"Justin is one of the premier pitchers in baseball and we are thrilled to keep him in a Tigers uniform for many years to come," Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said in a Friday morning statement. "Justin has been a Tiger for his entire career and he is on pace to be one of the greatest pitchers in this illustrious franchise’s history."
Verlander hinted at the contract extension Friday via Twitter, typing, "Today is going to be a great day. Big news coming!"
About 15 minutes later, he added, "I love this city & the fans – couldn’t be more excited to spend my career here! We’re going to bring a World Series to Detroit!!"
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