The Seattle Mariners resigned their ace, and one of the best pitchers of this era Felix Hernandez, to a 175 million dollar (a five year extension that will pay King Felix nearly 40 million over the next two seasons) contract this off season. That pushes the magic number for an extension between Justin Verlander, arguably the best pitcher of this generation, and the Detroit Tigers to at least that and likely more.
In fact, JV is on record saying he wants to be the first pitcher to earn a 200 million dollar contract. He certainly has the skill and has had the regular season results to command that kind of salary. However, it puts the Tigers into a very bad place with their financials.
Simply put, if the Tigers signed JV to a 200 million dollar he would not be the second Tigers player to have a 200 million dollar plus contract (Prince Fielder is the other) and that does not take in to account the contract of Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers starting this year already have three players making more than 20 million dollars a year.
We are not talking about the New York Yankees (with their own cable network) or the Los Angeles Dodgers,with a billion dollars in TV money every season. We are talking about the Tigers who play in an ever shrinking TV market and whose local TV deal is worth somewhere around 40 million dollars annually. Sure some 3 million fans packed themselves into Comerica Park but in a state with a high unemployment rate that number doesn’t seem very sustainable.
At some point the Tigers payroll commitments will not be sustainable. We could effectively argue that they are already at the point. However, given the age and health of owner Mike Illitch and his unwavering desire to bring a World Series title back to Detroit, the team is in win now mode.
The bad thing about that is the rest of us will still be here when the bottom falls out. Sure, we will revel in the euphoria of a World Series crown, and the sad fact that many of the people reading this do not remember the magic of 1984, but none of us Tigers’ fans want the team to return to the awfulness that were the late 1990’s Tiger teams.
Everyone wants JV back and back long term but at some point he will price himself out of what the Detroit market can afford to pay him. Hopefully before that happens he will be a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame or the Tigers are sold to an owner unwilling to spend this freely on the payroll.