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Justin Verlander and Tigers agree to $180 million contract

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Justin Verlander was eligible for free agency after the 2014 season, but the former MVP and the Tigers have agreed to a five-year contract extension that will keep him in Detroit through at least 2019.

Verlander was already under contract for $20 million this season and $20 million next season as part of a deal signed in December of 2010. This extension will begin in 2015 and includes a sixth-year option for 2020, which would be Verlander’s age-37 season.

According to Buster Olney of ESPN.com the total value of the deal if his existing 2013 and 2014 salaries are included is $180 million and the contract could be worth as much as $202 million if the 2020 option gets picked up. Which, if I’m doing the math correctly before official numbers are released, essentially means the five-year extension is worth $140 million or $28 million per season.

Huge, huge money, as $180 million tops Felix Hernandez’s short-lived record for pitchers of $175 million, although the stage is still set for Clayton Kershaw to become the first $200 million pitcher.

Verlander won the Cy Young and the MVP in 2011, finished runner-up for the Cy Young last season, and led the league in innings pitched in three of the past four years. During that four-year stretch of 2009-2012 he led all MLB pitchers in wins, starts, strikeouts, and Wins Above Replacement while ranking second in innings and fifth in both ERA and strikeout rate.

Massive long-term commitments to pitchers are awfully scary no matter the circumstances–with this week’s Johan Santana news providing the most recent cautionary tale–but no pitcher has been better or more durable than Verlander through age 29.

Athletics trade Billy Burns to the Royals for Brett Eibner

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 13: Billy Burns #1 of the Oakland Athletics waits on deck to bat during the fourth inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 13, 2016 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.

Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.

Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.

Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.

Nationals acquire closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 20:  Mark Melancon #35 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches during the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies on May 20, 2016 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
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The Nationals announced on Saturday afternoon that the club acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.

Melancon, 31, put together another solid season for the Pirates, leaving the club with 30 saves, a 1.51 ERA, and a 38/9 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. He led the majors last season with 51 saves and has a 1.80 ERA since joining the Pirates in 2013. Melancon is earning $9.65 million this season and can become eligible for free agency after the season.

With Melancon out of the picture, the Pirates intend to have Tony Watson take over the closer’s role.

Rivero, 25, has handled the seventh and eighth innings for the Nationals this season, compiling a 4.53 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings. He’s just shy of one year of service time, so the Pirates will have control of him for a long time.

Hearn, 21, was rated the Nationals’ 27th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft but he didn’t sign and ended up going back to college. The Nationals took him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. This season, between rookie ball and Single-A Hagerstown, Hearn put up a 2.79 ERA and a 39/13 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. He’s a long way away from the majors, so he’s essentially a lottery ticket for the Pirates.

The Nationals needed an upgrade at closer as Jonathan Papelbon has struggled this season. The right-hander has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances, ballooning his ERA up to 4.41 with a 30/13 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. It will be interesting to see how Papelbon, who has never made a habit of letting his feelings go unspoken, handles a demotion to the eighth inning.