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.

Reds acquire Darnell Sweeney from the Dodgers

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The Reds acquired utilityman Darnell Sweeney from the Dodgers in exchange for cash considerations, J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group reports.

This is the second time that the Dodgers have traded Sweeney. The club sent him to the Phillies along with John Richy in August 2015 for Chase Utley. The Phillies sent him back to the Dodgers this past offseason with Darin Ruf in exchange for Howie Kendrick.

Sweeney, 26, made his major league debut in 2015 with the Phillies, hitting a meager .176/.286/.353 in 98 plate appearances. With Triple-A Oklahoma City this season, he hit .227/.290/.412 in 131 PA. While Sweeney’s bat hasn’t proven to be anything special, he has played second base, third base, shortstop, and all three outfield positions, so his flexibility will make him useful at some point.

Bryce Harper to Little League players: “No participation trophies, first place only”

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Nationals’ star outfielder Bryce Harper had some words of advice for a local Little League team on Saturday, telling a crowd of young players and their parents that winning matters far more than any participation trophies they might receive for their efforts on the field.

“As much as they might tell you, ‘Oh, it’s okay, you guys lost…’ No, Johnny, no,” Harper explained. “No participation trophies, okay? First place only. Come on.”

The panic over participation trophy culture has swelled over the last few years as studies continue to suggest that children are happier when they’re praised for their accomplishments, rather than rewarded for simply trying their best. The general idea is that kids aren’t motivated to succeed when they know they’ll receive a ribbon or medal celebrating their efforts at the end of the day — regardless of whether they win or lose. (Granted, it stands to reason that every kid can feel the difference between winning a championship trophy and receiving a participation ribbon.) Some have taken the idea to an extreme, claiming that when a child receives too many accolades for mediocre or poor performances, it can warp the way they view the world by generating a sense of undeserved entitlement.

Harper kept his tone light during the Q&A session, however, drawing cheers and applause from the majority of parents and a few of the kids. The 2015 NL MVP has routinely taken his own advice over the years, earning Rookie of the Year honors, four All-Star nominations and a Silver Slugger award since he broke into the major leagues in 2012. Next on his list? A World Series championship.