In a world without substantial baseball news, the fact that Justin Verlander hasn’t inked a deal yet is garnering some attention. When the two sides submitted their numbers to the arbitrator, they were about a million dollars a part (Verlander wants $4.15 and the Tigers offered $3.2). The Tigers have never had an arbitration hearing under Dave Dombrowski, but that possibility is increasing with the hearing date set for February 13th.So what should Verlander get paid?
One approach is to look at comparable players who signed recently. You can look at Cole Hamels, so was also arbitration eligible for the first time this year. Hamels is coming off his best season of his young career where he posted a 3.09 ERA over 227.3 innings in a very hitter friendly park. Hamels inked a 3 year deal buying out his arbitration eligible years and will be paid $4.35 milloion in 09, $6.65 million in 10 and $9.5 million in 11.
Hamels is 2 years younger. Hamels has a better strike out rate (8.3 vs. 7.16), better walk rate(2.39 vs. 3.29), and a better ERA (3.43 vs. 4.11) than Verlander in his 3 seasons. Verlander has the edge in home run rate (.9 vs. 1.19) and innings pitched (600 vs. 543). Verlander also has a Rookie of the Year award and a no hitter under his belt. The latter two shouldn’t strictly play a factor in terms of value, but will certainly be given some consideration.
Based on what Hamels will be paid this year, Verlander’s request may be a tad high but not at all unreasonable. Also Hamels deal is part of a longer term deal that guarantees him $20.5 million. If it’s a one year deal would Hamels have settled for that amount or gone for a little more?
The other way to look at the contract is in terms of pure value. The last 3 years Verlander has been 3.1, 4.0, and 3.3 wins above replacement respectfully (these aren’t wins in the wins and losses sense, they are a measure of how many additional runs Verlander prevents over a replacement level pitcher and then the runs are converted to wins). If you figure him to be a 3.5 win pitcher that would put him at $16.8 million on the open market. But Verlander is 3 years away from hitting the open market so his contract needs to be discounted. The amount of the discount is what is hard to figure. Even discounting it by two-thirds means that Verlander would receive $5.5 which would be a whole lot for a first year arbitration eligible player. It also means that even at $4.15 million the Tigers would still be in good shape.
Dave Dombrowski is hopeful a deal will get done and Justin Verlander doesn’t seem worried. It could be taking longer because they are trying to work out a longer term deal as well. The Tigers don’t appear to be low-balling and Verlander isn’t asking for an unreasonable amount. My guess is that the two sides decide on something in between but closer to Verlander’s number, like around $3.9 million give or take $50k.