Felix Hernandez, eat your heart out. A month or so after King Felix became the highest paid pitcher in the history of baseball, former Cy Young winner and Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander has blown him and everyone else in professional sports out of the water with a historic $140 million contract that could end up paying him $202 million over the next five year, which makes him the highest paid pitcher in the history of baseball and one of the highest paid athletes in the world.
As of right now, the contract is just $140 million which added with $40 million left on his current deal makes his extension worth $180 million. But the truly historic part comes in the form of contract incentives that could make Verlander’s contract max out at the $202 million level — which is absolutely unheard of.
But in the age of bloated contracts, Verlander is one of the few players who actually deserve the insane money they’re going to be paid. Verlander is widely regarded as the best pitcher alive at the moment is will go down as one of the best to have ever played the game. It’s that notion that has the Tigers banking on his future success, hence the incentives in his contract.
“Justin is one of the premier pitchers in baseball and we are thrilled to keep him in a Tigers uniform for many years to come,” Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said in a Friday morning statement. “Justin has been a Tiger for his entire career and he is on pace to be one of the greatest pitchers in this illustrious franchise’s history.”
As with every player that gets a gigantic contract, the question is now whether or not Verlander will be able to live up to the hype. He has so far in his career, so most of his salary could be argued as back payments, but Verlander isn’t looking like he’s going to flake out anytime soon and when all is said and done, $202 million might end up being a bargain for this generation’s greatest pitcher.