Felix Hernandez (officially) has his $175 million deal, and we in the baseball media have moved onto a new fascination: Will it be Clayton Kershaw or Justin Verlander who becomes to $200 million pitching contracts what Roger Bannister was to the 4-minute mile?
Baseball people love numbers. We know the important ones by heart: 755 home runs, 56 consecutive games, a .406 batting average. But financial landmarks don’t resonate in quite the same way. I said as much to Verlander at the Detroit Tigers’ spring training base Tuesday morning, telling him I couldn’t recall baseball’s first $100 million pitcher off the top of my head.
“Kevin Brown, wasn’t it?” Verlander said with a grin.
Brown did so as a free agent, and the prospect of testing the market remains tantalizing to Verlander. He doesn’t appear to be in any rush to sign a contract extension, record-setting or otherwise. As a man of unique talent, abundant wealth and rather robust self-esteem, the opportunity for Verlander to handpick his baseball home may prove irresistible.