It doesn’t matter who the player is. They all say it isn’t about the money, but it really is. Take the Detroit Tigers’ Justin Verlander, for instance. He recently sat down with Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports to discuss the idea of him becoming the first pitcher to ink a deal worth more than $200 million. This of course came up because Verlander is set to become a free agent and Seattle’s Felix Hernandez just signed a deal for $175 million. When asked about the possibility, Verlander first deflects by saying that’s not the goal, but then quickly hints that’s exactly what he wants:
“I don’t play this game to make the most money. But I do feel like it would be nice to be compensated for what I feel like I’ve been: one of the best, if not the best, the last few years. In my career, I feel like I’ve been one of the top. But the last two years, I’ve kind of separated myself, me and a handful of other guys.
“It’s not a thing where I’m like, ‘Hey, I want to be the highest-paid player,’ where that’s the chief goal. It innately comes with my competitiveness. That’s just me. That’s not why I play the game. I’m good at the game because of that side of me, because I’m competitive at everything I do.”
I have to say, Verlander was very crafty with his words. He wrapped up the idea of wanting to be the highest-paid player at his position with his competitiveness. His agent, Mike Milchin, has done a fine job of prepping him, as he can expect to have these type of questions brought to him all year. Usually, athletes will speak in cliche’s and/or other ambiguous ways when such questions are asked.
Verlander has made it quite clear to GM Dave Dombrowski and owner Mike Ilitch: Pay me $200 million now, and I won’t test the waters. He has stated that he loves Detroit, and he wants to stay there. It is a team that has shown a commitment to winning and a willingness to do what it takes.
As long as Verlander continues to pitch the way he has the last few seasons, it is extremely likely that he exceeds the breaks the bank on the open market. Everyone will be involved. The Red Sox, the Dodogers, and the Yankees will all be ready to ask him to name his price. Though the Dodgers could give all that money to Clayton Kershaw. The Tigers, while having deep pockets, cannot simply compete with those teams in a bidding war, especially when they have to be concerned with compensating MVP Miguel Cabrera.
Verlander can realistically go well over the $200 million mark in free agency, even though he is 30. That may be the only thing that deters teams from signing him to that kinda money. But we have seen plenty of teams in the past overlook where someone will be at the end of a deal if it means he can help them win and sell tickets now.