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Detroit Tigers: Why Dombrowski Should Make Justin Verlander a Tiger for Life

BOSTON, MA - MAY 29:  Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers reacts after the Boston Red Sox score a run in the second inning at Fenway Park May 29, 2012  in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Josh BerenterCorrespondent IJanuary 26, 2013

Justin Verlander is the best pitcher on the planet, and the Detroit Tigers should do everything they can to ensure that he never puts on another jersey.

The 29-year-old hurler was the Tigers' No. 2 overall pick in the 2004 amateur draft and made his major league debut just a year later on July 4, 2005.

Verlander only made two starts in 2005, but the next year, in his first full season, he made his presence felt, going 17-9 with a 3.63 ERA and leading Detroit to the playoffs and an appearance in the World Series.

He had a rocky year in 2008, going 11-17 with a 4.84 ERA, but since then, he's become the best active pitcher in Major League Baseball.

After rebounding in 2009 by going 19-9 with a 3.45 ERA and recording a career-high 269 strikeouts in 240 innings over 35 starts, the Tigers rewarded Verlander in February, 2010 with a five-year, $80 million contract.

Verlander returned the favor over the next three seasons, assembling a combined 59-22 record with ERA's of 3.37 in 2010 and 2.64 in 2012, and after recording a 2.40 ERA in 2011, he was crowned AL MVP.

But as Verlander's contract—which ends after the 2014 season—winds down, the Tigers haven't made any apparent moves to re-sign the right-handed ace.

"There's been no discussions as of yet," Verlander said to MLive.com's James Schmehl at Comerica Park during the first day of the Tigers' annual Winter Caravan. "And, I don't know if there will be."

But there needs to be a conversation about an extension sometime soon.

The Tigers can't allow Verlander to get anywhere close to free agency and certainly can't allow any other teams to try to lure him away from Detroit.

Because blockbuster deals are essentially based on how much the similar competition has gotten paid, Verlander's next contract will be based on what players like CC Sabathia and Zack Greinke have recently received.

After the 2011 season, Sabathia agreed to a five-year, $122 million contract extension with the New York Yankees, and in December, Greinke agreed to a six year, $147 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Both players are making around $24.5 million per year, and neither player has been as good as Verlander the last two seasons.

Based on Greinke and Sabathia's contracts, Verlander should receive a deal worth over $25 million a year.

The Tigers have done a good job surrounding Verlander with a lot of talent that is capable of winning a World Series, but they also have to pay their ace what he's worth.

They can't allow him to sniff the possibility of free agency and a possible better contract with another team.

Verlander told MLive.com:

You know me and how competitive I am with every aspect of everything. I'm my own individual. I don't look at anybody else and say he did this or that. It's what I'm comfortable with when it comes to something like that.

The five-time All-Star deserves to be the highest-paid pitcher and among the highest-paid players in the game.

Owner Mike Ilitch has opened his wallet lately in search of a World Series title and should continue to do so to pad Verlander's pockets.

And he should do so sooner rather than later.

Verlander has made it clear that he wants to be one of the few MLB superstars to begin and end his career with the same team and has made it clear that his heart is with the Tigers.

Detroit is where he belongs.

"I've made this point before that my ultimate goal is to make the Hall of Fame," he said. "I would like nothing more than to go to the Hall of Fame with an Old English D on my chest."

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