Detroit Tigers Taking Huge Risk on Justin Verlander Contract

Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers just broke one of the should-be golden rules of baseball, and something I’ve been soap-boxing about for years. Don’t dump long-term huge money deals into a pitcher. I don’t care how good the pitcher is or what he means to the future for a team, it’s a bad gamble and not worth the risk.

Just ask the New York Mets how that Johan Santana deal is working out.

Now that Justin Verlander has his 5-year, $180 million deal (with an option for a sixth year worth up to $22 million), and is the highest paid pitcher in MLB, all the Tigers can do is cross their collective fingers every time he toes the mound. One wrong pitch…one awkward moment…and it could all go down as a giant payroll shambles.

The Tigers aren’t just gambling on Verlander’s health, they have a lot more at stake with a contract this huge. And it’s not that Verlander isn’t deserving of a long-term deal or that he isn’t one of the best pitchers in baseball. He does, and he is. But sometimes the numbers don’t add up when you are talking about banking that much payroll on one guy who only contributes once every 4-5 days.

If Detroit doesn’t at least get to, and preferably win, the World Series more than one time over the next five seasons, how do you justify that money?

If Detroit raises ticket prices (which I’d be willing to bet they will) and fans become discouraged and don’t remain loyal and monetarily supportive, how do they justify that money?

And on the health of Verlander, how likely is a 30-year-old pitcher that has had a virtually injury-free career remain that healthy headed into the last part of his playing years? The law of averages-not to mention Murphy’s law–are bound to catch up at some point.

The Tigers absolutely flopped in five games during last year’s World Series, and that was with a healthy and dominant Verlander. Could a chunk of that money not have been spent on securing help in the areas where Detroit actually has needs? I’m just more that wait-and-see approach when it comes to huge contracts for starting pitchers.

It may actually pay off. Detroit might make it back to the Fall Classic this year and completely dominate whichever National League opponent is thrown their way.

But if they don’t…? And then don’t the following year…?

Risky business if you ask me.

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Michael Collins is a Rant Sports Senior Writer, and Atlanta sports columnist. Follow him @GaSportsCraze on Twitter and here on Facebook

 

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