The market for elite starting pitching has been officially destroyed thanks to the contracts that have been signed this season. The nonsense started with the Matt Cain extension, causing every pitcher who is better than Cain to ask for more money.
The deal that definitely ruined the starting pitching market, however, was Felix Hernandez‘s $175 million extension with the Seattle Mariners. With that deal in place, it will cause every elite pitcher to ask for more money than Hernandez, which is why Justin Verlander wants to become baseball’s first $200 million pitcher. Verlander dropped this when talking to Yahoo:
“Of course. 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.
Way to be humble, Justin! Even though he sounds kind of arrogant in that quote, he is right about separating himself from the rest of the league.
But the question remains: is Verlander worth $200 million? If he did get a $200 million deal, that contract would have to be at least eight seasons long, making him around 40-years old by the end of his deal. There is no doubt Verlander is one of the most durable pitchers in baseball, but I have a hard time believing that he can continue to pitch that well in his upper-30s, unless he really is the next Nolan Ryan.
Verlander has two years and about $40 million left on his current deal before he becomes a free agent. I feel the fair market value for Verlander would be a deal similar to Cliff Lee’s five-year, $125 million contract. Anything that would pay him over $25 million a year in his 40s is downright laughable.
Although he may be the best pitcher now, he won’t be in five or so seasons down the road.