Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
Even though Justin Verlander's performance dipped in 2008, it's also important to remember where he stood relative to the rest of the league. At an absolute minimum, Verlander was an average to slightly below average starting pitcher in 2008 - and the $3.675 million would put him about $800K under the mean salary of a starting pitcher. In other words, even if he regressed, he was obviously underpaid in previous seasons due to the arbitration system, and the raise he received was certainly fair. I think the Tigers would eager to get him signed to a longer term deal, if only the long term deals they had signed over the past year and a half hadn't come back to bite them. Long term deals to the likes of Nate Robertson, Dontrelle Willis didn't pan out. So now, on top of the fact that the Tigers are cash strapped (at least for 2009), but there is hesitancy to hand out a long term deal to a pitcher coming off a down year. That being said, if the Tigers get a strong first half in 2009 out of Verlander, they'd be wise to try and start up discussions about a three or four year deal along the lines that Jeremy Bonderman received (four years, $38 million).
Mark Anderson, Managing Editor
Though some will look at last year's numbers and question whether Verlander really merits a raise, I look at the contract terms he received, and I'm quite pleased. It rewards him for his first two years of performance, and demonstrates some confidence from the organization in his abilities. It's a fair deal given what he was looking for in arbitration, and it's more than fair for the Tigers. As for the long term deal, I think the Tigers have to begin seriously considering getting something done. They've shelled out bucks to guys like Granderson, Bonderman, Cabrera, and less inspired deals to guys like Inge and Willis, and I believe they would be foolish not to approach the same with Verlander. Despite his struggles last year, Verlander has top of the line talent, and could be one of game's elite starters as soon as this year. A long term deal can provide some desired security for Verlander, while also providing the Tigers with a higher level of cost certainty in some uncertain economic times. It is in both parties best interest to get something done for 4-5 years beyond 2009, and I expect we'll hear something by the All-Star break.
Jason Avery, Associate Editor, Amateur Baseball
I have no problem with Justin Verlander's contract for this upcoming season. People are quick to forget the years he had previous to last year, but $3.675 million is fine for someone who has won 17 and 18 games in his first two years with the Tigers.
As far as getting a long-term contract done, I think the Tigers would be open to it, but with Detroit getting hit particularly hard in the economic crisis, they may have to watch their dollars despite having several contracts coming off the books over the next two years.
If the numbers are right and make sense, I could see them striking a deal with Verlander, but they do have time on their side to get a deal done when economic conditions become more favorable.
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