Detroit Tigers: Is Justin Verlander Leaning Toward Free Agency?

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Detroit Tigers: Is Justin Verlander Leaning Toward Free Agency?
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

On March 23, Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander told CBS Sports' Jon Heyman that he won't discuss a contract extension during the regular season:

"Once this last start comes around, I want to concentrate on the start of the season,'' Verlander said about his decision to halt any negotiations as of Wednesday. (The Tigers are aware of this stance, and seem to concur it's the proper way to go.)

While Heyman also quotes Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski in the article about Verlander's stance, this could be a setback for the Tigers:

I don't think anything productive comes from talking about a contract during the season. We try to keep distractions out. It's been rare when we've done it, and it's usually more about free agents.

The problem with Verlander not wanting to discuss an extension during the season is that next offseason, he'll be only a year away from free agency. 

Verlander is extremely competitive and has gone on record saying that he wants to be the first $200 million pitcher in baseball. It was on March 6 that Verlander addressed his desire for a $200 million contract to USA Today's James Jahnke:

On comments he made about the $200 million: "They got taken out of context a little bit, but I'm not going to take back what I said. Do you want to be the first $200-million pitcher? Yeah, absolutely."

Verlander has discussed experiencing free agency as well, which has to be a concern for the Tigers front office.

On Feb. 12, Verlander talked about his interest in testing free agency with Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi:

Absolutely. I think that’d be a blast. If I have two more years like I just had, it would be pretty interesting.

Verlander then explained what he would enjoy about it:

You know how competitive I am. It’s kind of fun thinking about having teams battle for you.

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The speculation over Verlander's contract status had been put on the back burner over the last several weeks, but with his comments on March 23, his status will be a topic entering the regular season.

While it is probably for the best that Verlander and the Tigers won't allow talks to affect his pitching, Verlander is so focused due to his competitive nature that his pitching would have been unlikely to be affected if talks were occurring.

Now with the clock ticking on Verlander's current contract, it doesn't seem that far-fetched for Verlander to hit the open market. If that occurs, it will be hard for the Tigers to try to compete with the clubs in the bigger markets.

Hopefully, Verlander wants to finish his career in Detroit and be considered a Tiger for life. However, it will be a challenge to get him to sign an extension next offseason, when he'll only be closer to free agency.

 

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