When the Seattle Mariners and Felix Hernandez reportedly agreed to a contract extension that will pay the former Cy Young winner a whopping $175 million over the next seven years, the market for starting pitchers changed once again.
Sure, players like CC Sabathia with the New York Yankees and Zack Greinke with the Los Angeles Dodgers have helped set the market in the last two years. But the ramifications of Hernandez's contract have given teams a starting point to use when the next crop of elite arms hits free agency.
One of those arms, Detroit's Justin Verlander, was golfing when he was made aware of the deal Hernandez signed. His response, courtesy of Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports, was quite simple yet it was really all that needed to be said: "Holy cow!"
Verlander and Los Angeles' Clayton Kershaw, arguably the two best pitchers in their respective leagues, are both scheduled to hit the market after the 2014 season.
Their teams will likely try to talk extension with them before others have the chance to go shopping elsewhere, but Hernandez's contract has at least given the Tigers and Dodgers a starting point.
One big advantage that Hernandez has over Verlander is age. Hernandez turns 27 in April. By the time Verlander hits free agency in two years, he will be 31 years old.
Teams could be reluctant to give a $25 million per year deal to a pitcher with that much mileage on his arm over the age of 30, even one as great as Verlander.
Kershaw has a very real chance to match or exceed both the total value ($175 million) and average annual value ($25 million) of Hernandez's deal. Even though he debuted four years ago, he is just 24 years old.
By the time Kershaw hits free agency, he will be just 26 and heading into his age 27 season in 2015. The Dodgers have shown they will spend anything and everything they can, so it's scary to think what they might do to keep him if he stays healthy over the next two years.
As Verlander so astutely said, holy cow, indeed!
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