The Associated Press is reporting that the Tigers have signed Justin Verlander to a five year $80 million contract. Without the contract, Verlander would have become a free agent after the the 2011 season. So, this contract takes him through his final two arbitration years and three years beyond that.
I am usually wary of pitchers being signed up long term because they are such a big injury risks. However, Verlander is the type of pitcher where you don't mind seeing a team take a risk. Last year, the 26 year old right-hander emerged as the ace of the staff leading the majors in both innings (240) and strikeouts (269). He also finished sixth in the league with a 3.45 ERA and was third in K/BB ratio (4.27).
Some have expressed concern about his 840 innings at age 26 and the fact that his 3,937 pitches were 300 more than any pitcher in the majors last year. However, he experienced no loss of velocity or command over the course of the season and has never had a serious injury. By most accounts, he also has a clean delivery which should help protect him from injuries.
The other good thing is that he'll only be 31 in 2014 which means the contract covers his prime years. So, while a pitcher's contract is never a safe one, this one is a reasonable deal. It's a move I think the Tigers had to make if they have aspirations of being a perennial contender over the next several years.