The Tigers’ streak -- the one that has nothing to do with wins and losses -- has survived another winter.
The team announced today that it has signed right-hander Justin Verlander to a one-year, $3.675-million contract.
Prior to the agreement, a salary arbitration hearing with Verlander had loomed less than two weeks away. Instead, the deal enabled club president/general manager Dave Dombrowski to maintain a pristine record: The team has not walked into an arbitration room with one of its players since he joined the organization after the 2001 season.
“We’re very pleased,” said John Westhoff, the team’s vice president/baseball legal counsel. “The goal is never to go to arbitration. We want to work toward a settlement that makes sense for both sides.”
Negotiations between the Tigers and Verlander’s representatives lasted roughly a month and yielded a 50/50 compromise.
When the sides exchanged figures two weeks ago, Verlander asked for $4.15 million. The team set its number at $3.2 million. Today's settlement split the difference.
“We were always cautiously optimistic that we would get the deal done,” Westhoff said. “We had actually gotten close on the day we exchanged numbers. I think we both realized that this was going to work.”
Verlander, who turns 26 this month, has previously said that he would like to spend his entire career in Detroit. But he’s not likely to sign a multiyear deal in the immediate future. Westhoff said he doesn’t expect that possibility to be discussed until after the 2009 season. Verlander is on track to enter free agency in 2011.
“This year, both sides were satisfied with a one-year deal,” Westhoff said.
From Verlander’s perspective, this would not have been an optimal time to sign a long-term contract, anyway. Apart from the economic recession, he is coming off the worst of his three big-league seasons. He could have more leverage at this time next year, particularly if his 2009 performance resembles that of 2006 and 2007.
Entering last year, Verlander was well-positioned to earn the top salary among all first-time-eligible starters in this year’s class. He had a no-hitter and AL Rookie of the Year award on his résumé, along with appearances in the All-Star Game and World Series. But he went 11-17 with a 4.84 ERA in 33 starts during the 2008 season.
Now Verlander will rank no higher than third on the list of his highest-paid peers. Cole Hamels of Philadelphia ($4.35 million) and Felix Hernandez of Seattle ($3.8 million) will earn more than him this year. Pending the outcome of his salary-arbitration case, Ervin Santana of the Los Angeles Angels could, too.
Parrish to Baltimore: Left-hander John Parrish, whom the Tigers had pursued as a free agent this off-season, is likely to sign a minor-league contract with Baltimore within the next several days.
The Tigers had been interested in signing Parrish to a minor-league deal with an invitation to big-league camp. Parrish, 31, could have joined the competition to become the second left-hander in Detroit’s bullpen, behind Bobby Seay.
Tigers officials have seemed less concerned about adding relief help since signing potential closer Brandon Lyon to a one-year, $4.25-million deal last month.
Parrish went 1-1 with a 4.04 ERA in 13 appearances (six starts) with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2008. He also pitched in 17 games at Triple-A Syracuse last season and went 10-1 with a 2.97 ERA.