Justin Verlander wants to be the game’s first $200 million pitcher

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Since Felix Hernandez inked his seven-year, $175 million extension with the Mariners earlier this month, there has been a lot of discussion about who will be the game’s first $200 million pitcher. One of the most likely candidates, Justin Verlander, tells Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports that he feels he is deserving of the distinction.

“I don’t play this game to make the most money. But I do feel like it would be nice to be compensated for what I feel like I’ve been: one of the best, if not the best, the last few years. In my career, I feel like I’ve been one of the top. But the last two years, I’ve kind of separated myself, me and a handful of other guys.

“It’s not a thing where I’m like, ‘Hey, I want to be the highest-paid player,’ where that’s the chief goal. It innately comes with my competitiveness. That’s just me. That’s not why I play the game. I’m good at the game because of that side of me, because I’m competitive at everything I do.”

While Verlander said “free agency is really cool,” he also doesn’t think that he has “to be a free agent to get [$200 million].” In other words, if the Tigers come to him with the right offer, he would listen. But he’s also keenly aware that if he continues to pitch the way he has over the past two years, there could be a serious bidding war on the open market.

Verlander, who turned 30 on Wednesday, is currently eligible to become a free agent following the 2014 season. Dodgers’ left-hander Clayton Kershaw might be the best candidate of all to top $200 million, as he’s nearly five years younger than Verlander. By the way, he’s also due to become a free agent after 2014.

Report: Twins sign Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal

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The Twins have reportedly signed free agent shortstop Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported Friday. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that the deal comes with a potential $1.25 million if Aybar reaches the majors, with additional incentives based on plate appearances. He’ll be able to opt out on March 27. The team has yet to confirm the signing.

Aybar, 34, is now four years removed from his career year in 2014. He’s been in a state of steady decline since then, slashing just .234/.300/.348 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases over 370 plate appearances for the Padres in 2017. His poor performance wasn’t helped by a fractured left foot, either, which cost him almost six weeks on the disabled list.

Still, the Twins see something promising in the veteran infielder, and reportedly intend to use him as another utility option this spring. Per Neal, Aybar will join fellow backup infielders Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza and may even (temporarily) take over for Miguel Sano at third base if Sano isn’t able to shape up for the role by Opening Day.