The $22 million Cy Young clause

The Tigers have had some interesting contract clauses in their big deals under Dave Dombrowski. When they crashed the market and spent big on Ivan Rodriguez in 2004, they protected themselves with a contract clause that allowed them to terminate the deal in either of the first two years if he spent more than five weeks on the disabled list with a lumbar injury. A year later, they put a similar clause into Magglio Ordonez’s massive deal, allowing them a way out after only one season if he spent more than 25 days on the disabled list due to issues with his surgically-repaired knee. That was the peace of mind they bought while they were taking chances on free agents with injury histories, though they weren’t protected when Troy Percival’s arm broke down in 2005 (granted, it was a two-year contract).

Justin Verlander’s new contract has a different type of clause, and it has the potential to put awards balloting in a different spotlight.

The way the contract is written, Verlander clearly wanted the chance to become the first pitcher with a $200 million contract, but the Tigers probably didn’t want to be on the hook for what the Mets and Phillies face with Johan Santana and Roy Halladay, paying massive money for a pitcher beginning the downslide of his career (in fairness, we don’t know for sure if Halladay is sliding quite that far just yet, but he’s making $20 million regardless and just had a miserable Spring Training).

The solution isn’t injury-based, and is indirectly performance-based. It’s awards-based. If Verlander finishes among the top five in AL Cy Young balloting in 2019, his $22 million option for 2020 will vest.

The way they were talking at Friday’s press conference, Verlander and the Tigers are treating it as a performance-based incentive.

“I have a chance to get to the $200 million contract. I just have to earn it,” Verlander said. “I have no problem with that. The opportunity to stay in Detroit and earn $200 million is great. Obviously, it’d be nice if it was guaranteed, but I’ve got to go out there and earn it on the baseball field. That’s how I got this current contract and that’s how I plan to continue the rest of my career.”

This is not the first such awards-based clause in a contract, not even close. It just takes it to a different level. Some examples from recent deals:

  • Before Adam Wainright signed his extension with the Cardinals last week, his old contract included club options for 2012 and 2013 that became guaranteed when he finished in the top five in Cy Young voting in 2010 (he finished second to Roy Halladay). Ironically, an injury clause allowed the Cardinals to void the options when he was on the disabled list in 2011.
  • Santana has a club option for next year that would have become a player option under any number of scenarios, among them if he won a Cy Young award and finished in the top three in another year over the course of the six-year contract, or if he had three top-three finishes.
  • Yu Darvish has an $11 million salary for 2017 that becomes a player option with a Cy Young award and another top-four finish between now and 2016, or a second-place finish and two other top-four placements.

Those last two clauses required multiple Cy Young award finishes over a multi-year stretch. Verlander’s option is a one-shot deal. And dollarwise, none of the other examples have as much riding on them.

It could be tricky spot, but there isn’t much voters can do about it. The Baseball Writers Association of America tried to ward off a situation like this when it passed a rule in 2007 to disqualify any player from a BBWAA-voted award if there was an awards clause in their contract. That was set to take effect in 2013, but the BBWAA had little choice but to rescind it in 2011 because awards clauses have become so common. That said, I have no doubt voters will handle their decision seriously and with integrity. If Verlander deserves consideration, he’ll get it. If he doesn’t, he won’t. And let’s be honest, if Verlander puts up good enough numbers at age 36 to enter the Cy Young conversation, the Tigers will probably be interested in his services for 2020.

It might end up becoming a difficult position for Verlander and the Tigers. Keep in mind that baseball’s awards season takes place just before Thanksgiving, after free agency has already started and when agents are already talking with teams. If a 36-year-old Verlander has a good season in 2019 amidst a year of strong pitching performances, he could be waiting into mid-November to see if he’s on the open market. Even if there are seasons far better than his, all he has to do is finish fifth. Jered Weaver did that with a 13-12 season and 3.01 ERA in 2010, barely beating out Clay Buchholz (17-7, 2.33). Verlander finished in a four-way tie for fifth place in balloting, receiving one vote point along with Erik Bedard, Roy Halladay and Johan Santana.

24 Comments

Cannot even fathom that sum of money. That said, more contracts should be performance based and results based, so much at the end of the season extra for hitting above .300, etc

Can’t believe the season is here! won’t be getting much work done tomorrow!

Casper Wells is now officially available…bye bye Tuiasosopo?

I’d send wells to AAA until he can start hitting

I noticed that too Derrick. I believe they have committed themselves to 2E. At least for the time being. Unless, of course, they traded even up for one another.
My guess is if they go after Casper, they will do so with the idea of placing him at Toledo and calling him up it Matt proves incapable of handling the role defensively and offensively.

We first have to get a chance at him. He would be a good pick up for us for Toledo. Could we fit him on the 40 man??

The thing about Casper is that he can hit. He hasn’t and is prone to striking out too much, but he is strong, he is quick, runs well and is one of those guys that can be a career 2nd stringer but gets it together finally.
He obviously would be a bridge between now and Castellanos/Garcia. Much like 2E is. The advantage for Wells is his defense. No way 2E can play the field like Casper.

If Tuiasosopo was still hot, I would be more inclined to keep him into the season, hoping to catch some lightning in a bottle. His career major league numbers are awful. Wells hasn’t been great lately, but still better than 2E in games that count, plus better OF defense.

Follow-up, nearly a .900 OPS against LHP last year, even in a bad overall year for Wells. Isn’t that exactly what we are looking for?

touche sir

Hard to argue with Wells lifetime splits: .271/.346/.482/.828 vs lefties (371 PAs, 120 tOPS+)

tomorrows gametime temp: 35F medium winds from northnorthwest, partly cloudy. So I was about 4F too high and thought the wind would be weaker.

Do MLB games ever get postponed because it is too cold?? Next day any better?? Probably will have fans sneaking whiskey flasks in the park.

35 tomorrow and 40 on Tuesday. Not much difference. Low 50s Wednesday and Thursday, so that’s much better.

Do we see any former closers or set up men out there on the waiver wires?? We do have an open spot on the 40 man. Tuiasosopo did well this spring and Casper did poorly. 2E is a suspect with a capital “S” but his is our surprise on the roster. Go Tigers!!!

Derrick… Wells is only 28 and has only about a regular year’s total stats. Wells has had 593 AB with 25 HR and 80 RBI. Throw in his defense and he looks like a deal, with pop.

And as far as the 2013 ST went, Wells had only 53 AB with 2 HR and 14 RBI. A run producer who can play defense.

Looks like Casper impressed people during his stint in Detroit, and count me as one of those people. This may be all hypothetical but he seems to be exactly the kind of guy we were looking for over the winter. A good defender who can hit lefties.

As I understand it, he has been designated for assignment. So he could be traded without clearing waivers, correct? If no trade is worked out, then he would be subject to waivers? Then, if no one claimed him, he could be sent down to AAA or released and anyone could sign him to a minor league contract? The question would be what would we give up for him now to avoid risking waivers? And this is assuming DD has any interest. They may worry about that elusive “chemistry” if they remove someone from the roster a game or two into the season.

Such an important part of your team……the bench. You need infield defense, outfield defense, power and speed. Do we have all those components (All while providing backup behind the plate) ? No, we don’t.
Do we have enough lineup to compensate for that? Possibly. Time WILL tell.

lets say the tigers trade for casper. what do you think they’d have to give up to get him? any harm in sending 2E to A^3?

Our bench was built to give our manager as much flexibility as possible. He has a back up catcher who is a switch hitter. He has a capable defender to back up the middle infield positions who as a switch hitter can bat LH and fill in against righties who are tough for our starter at second and bat RH and fill in against lefties that give our SS problems. Our other two bench players can play both in the infield and the outfield. Three of these players are veteran bench players who know their roles on the team, which is most important to our manager. Just ask Lloyd Mc Clendon who rode the pines on his 90-94 Pirate teams. In ST, our new bench collected
twelve doubles, three triples, twelve homers and one steal. Just what our manager wants.

looking more sunny than it did yesterday for gametime might be a little colder tho. precip is now out of the question.

Since we face the Twins in our opening series of the season, let’s take a look at them. We will see three primarily NL pitchers as starters for them in the next few days. An interesting challenge for us. Let’s see how we do. Aaron Hicks will be new blood at the top of their line up as a switch hitting center fielder with 30 SB potential. Do they have a deep line up?? Not sure. But we will see them ten times before Memorial Day so we better not take them lightly. They will have three LHP in the bullpen. How many times will Prince, Andy, and Alex face these pitchers?? Let’s play ball and try to rock and roll. Go Tigers!!

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