Felix Hernandez‘s recent contract extension immediately raised questions about which hurler is next in line to receive a big payday, and the best pitcher in baseball feels he deserves to be properly compensated.
Justin Verlander, who has been lights out the past few years, told Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan that he would absolutely like to become baseball’s first $200 million pitcher. Then again, who really would say no to that much cash?
“I don’t play this game to make the most money,” Verlander reportedly said. “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.
“It’s not a thing where I’m like, ‘Hey, I want to be the highest-paid player,’ where that’s the chief goal. It innately comes with my competitiveness. That’s just me. That’s not why I play the game. I’m good at the game because of that side of me, because I’m competitive at everything I do.”
Verlander has no doubt been one of the game’s elite. He won the AL Cy Young and MVP in 2011 when he went 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA, and he finished second in Cy Young voting in 2012 after posting a 17-8 record and a 2.64 ERA. If there’s a pitcher who deserves to get paid, it’s certainly him, although he’ll soon be turning 31, so perhaps the 24-year-old Clayton Kershaw is a more likely candidate to reach the $200 million mark.
Both Verlander and Kershaw are slated to become free agents after the 2014 season, and while Verlander loves playing in Detroit, he’s not exactly shying away from an opportunity to hit the open market.
“I think free agency is really cool and would be a great experience,” Verlander reportedly said. “I would like to experience it, to be honest with you. But if Detroit comes along and says, ‘Hey, here’s an offer you can’t turn down,’ I’m not going to turn it down.”
In other words, Verlander is as smart a businessman as he is a pitcher.