This Day in Baseball: Justin Verlander Signs Richest Contract for Pitcher in History

A World Series title wasn’t the only goal on his mind when Justin Verlander arrived at the Detroit Tigers’ spring training facility in Lakeland, Fla, in 2013. If Verlander had his way, he wanted to sign a long-term extension with the Detroit Tigers rather than test free agency after the 2014 season.

Verlander got his wish before spring training ended. Verlander agreed to terms on a five-year, $140 million contract extension that would pay him a record $28 million a year beginning in 2015, the most ever paid to a pitcher. The veteran starting pitcher signed the historic contract on March 29, 2013.

How does Verlander’s contract look seven years later? Let’s take a look.

Justin Verlander finally cashed in with the Tigers

A top prospect who’d been in the Tigers’ system since 2004, Verlander wanted to stay with the defending AL champions. Verlander greeted reporters at spring training by letting them know he wanted to “be a Tiger forever.”

“I love Detroit. I feel like I’m a kindred part of that town. I grew up in front of these fans, and earned my way into their hearts. … “It doesn’t very often happen anymore where a guy sticks with one team his whole career. You don’t get that kind of loyalty from either side.”

Clearly, Detroit agreed they wanted Verlander in the Tigers’ long-term plans. Verlander was already set to earn $20 million in 2013 and 2014. The Tigers took a risk in signing Verlander, who turned 29 that spring, into such a long contract.

Verlander has only increased his Hall of Fame chances since the contract began

Former Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander agreed to a historic contract on March 29, 2013.
Former Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander agreed to a historic contract on March 29, 2013. | Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Justin Verlander was 124-65 with a 3.40 ERA and a Cy Young Award when he signed the record contract. The 6-foot-5 right-hander enters the 2020 season with 225 wins, a 3.33 ERA, and 3,006 strikeouts. Verlander has taken advantage of baseball’s changing offensive philosophies and recorded 590 strikeouts the last two years.

Verlander added a World Series title to his resume when he joined the Houston Astros in an August 2017 trade. Verlander was named MVP of the 2017 ALC after allowing just one earned run in 16 innings against the New York Yankees. After struggling in the 2006 and 2012 Fall Classics with the Tigers, Verlander is 0-3 in four World Series starts with the Astros, though.

Verlander is considered a near-lock to make the Hall of Fame on his first ballot. Baseball-Reference lists Verlander’s “Black Ink” at 66, well higher than the average Hall of Famer’s 40. Verlander registers a 51 on the site’s Hall of Fame standards tracker. The average Hall of Famer has a 50 on that scale.

What else happened in baseball on March 29?

  • Chicago Cubs manager Phil Cavarretta may have been too blunt. Cavarretta told reporters the Cubs had little chance to finish near the top of the National League standings. Not only does Cavarretta become the first manager fired during spring training, but the Cubs also live up to his expectations and finish seventh in the NL.
  • Rickey Henderson‘s career isn’t over yet. The 43-year-old future Hall of Famer is placed on the Red Sox’s Opening Day roster on March 29, 2002. Henderson hits .223 with five home runs and eight stolen bases in 72 games with the Red Sox, his 24th season in the big leagues.
  • Six years later, the Boston Red Sox are in the news again when they play the Los Angeles Dodgers at the LA Coliseum in front of a record 115,300 fans. Boston wins 7-4 on home runs from catcher Kevin Cash and first baseman Kevin Youkilis.
  • Chicago White Sox third baseman Matt Davidson becomes the fourth player in MLB history to homer three times on Opening Day. Davidson’s record day on March 29, 2018, puts him in company with Toronto’s George Bell, the Cubs’ Tuffy Rhodes, and Detroit’s Dmitri Young.