The way I see it there are six Tigers who, based on their service time and contract situations, are potentially in line to sign multi-year extensions with the club this offseason: Four pitchers – Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, and Rick Porcello; and two position players – Austin Jackson and Alex Avila.
Letâ€™s look at the pitchers first. In Verlanderâ€™s case the recent Felix Hernandez extension gives us the parameters to work off of. King Felix signed for 7-years, $175 million. Verlanderâ€™s probably a slight notch above Hernandez both in terms of talent and track record, so I would think the Tigers would need to offer something between that figure and, say, $200 million over seven years. If Iâ€™m in Dombrowskiâ€™s shoes this is a deal I would make. Thereâ€™s always more risk in signing pitchers to long-term deals, but Verlander is the best in the game, so if youâ€™re going to give anyone that kind of money heâ€™s your guy. Next itâ€™s just a matter of whether Justin is amenable to such a pact. Considering the long-term security, enormous wealth, and his stated desire to stay in Detroit it seems to me he should go for it. Now itâ€™s up to the two sides to find a middle point. My suggestion: 7-years, $185 million. But if this deal doesnâ€™t get done itâ€™s certainly not the end of the world. Thereâ€™s always next offseason and then the chance to bring him back once he hits free agency.
I donâ€™t see Scherzer, who is the closest to free agency out of the three remaining pitchers, signing long-term. He has a history of injuries and inconsistency, and with Scott Boras as his agent I doubt the Tigers would be able to get an especially team friendly deal done, which theyâ€™ve apparently already talked about. If he does sign it would probably be for less than the 5 years, $80 million Anibal Sanchez just got, considering that Scherzer is still under team control for the next two years. Something along the lines of 5 years, $70 million, which would buy out his last two arbitration years and three free agent years would seem appropriate. I just donâ€™t know if either side is, or should be, overly eager to make that happen.
I also donâ€™t think youâ€™ll see the Tigers explore long-term deals with either of the two remaining pitchers on my list, if for no other reason than the injury and attrition rate among pitchers. Besides, Porcello is already trade bait. Who knows whatâ€™s going to happen with him. And Fister is too injury prone, with the added caveat that pitchers with his lanky physical frame and skill set donâ€™t usually hold up very well over the long-term.
Now for the position players. Catchers are notorious for having their best offensive seasons early in their careers then seeing their production tail off once the wear and tear of the position catches up to them. Will this happen to Alex Avila? Obviously, I donâ€™t know. But itâ€™s enough of a concern that I wouldnâ€™t want to tie up too much money in him unless I could get an extremely team friendly contract. Considering heâ€™s set to make about three million this year, in his first season under arbitration, the only way I could see something happening is if the price was in the 5-year, $30-$35 million range. Again, extremely team friendly.
That leaves us with the guy who I think is both most likely to sign a long-term deal and should be at the top of the teamâ€™s priority list to sign long-term: Austin Jackson. Who I will get to in Part Two of this piece.