Tigers ace Justin Verlander.
Justin Verlander made his second start of the spring today and looked sharp, pitching three perfect innings against the Mets in Port St. Lucie.

Verlander is coming off another dominating season in 2012 in which he won 17 games and led the league with 239 strikeouts.  As the 2013 season progresses, more dominating numbers are expected, as is plenty of talk about his contract status.

When the Tigers signed Verlander to a five year deal prior to the 2010 season, they effectively bought him out of his first round of free agency.  Imagine the contract Verlander would have commanded following the 2011 season in which he won the MVP and Cy Young Awards.  Had Verlander not signed that initial five year deal, he would have been a free agent following that 2011 season.  Can you say jackpot?  Don't worry though, JV will be just fine.

The Tigers meanwhile are now in the midst of deciding how to proceed with one of the faces of their franchise.  He is signed for the next two years, but guaranteeing that he remains a Tiger for the rest of his career will take a preemptive strike.

Based on the deal Felix Hernandez signed with the Mariners recently for $175 million, Verlander may reach the $200 million plateau.  He is also probably going to ask for a deal that will last anywhere from five to eight years.  Contracts that length for pitchers carry risk, and plenty of it.

Yet, if there was ever a pitcher that may mitigate some of that risk, it's Verlander.  JV has made at least 30 starts in each of his first seven big league seasons.  He has thrown over 200 innings in six of those campaigns and his preparation each season is second to none.  The bottom line is, he is a workhorse.

While some may see the heavy workload to this point in his career as a negative, keep in mind that he made just 20 minor league starts before beginning his major league career.  He doesn't carry the heavy workload history of Hernandez who threw over 300 innings in the minors.

If Verlander signs a 7-year deal, many wonder how much return a club would get on the investment from age 35 to 37.  Generally pitchers that have won 15 or more games in that age category have been knuckleballers like Phil Niekro, R.A. Dickey and Charlie Hough.  However, closer to Verlander's skill set, Roger Clemens won 20 games at age 35 and Nolan Ryan won 16 wins in his age 35 season.

The Tigers certainly don't want to lose one of the game's best players, but they will have to pony up to keep him.  Verlander has said that he would like to remain a Tiger and the hometown fans hope to see him on the mound for many opening days to come.



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