Tigers ace Justin Verlander isn’t interested in letting contract talks distract him during the season, reports Jon Heyman:
Verlander said Saturday that if there’s no deal in place by his next start, his last spring start, there won’t be any more contract talk through the remainder of the season, as he wants to focus on winning. So if there isn’t a new contract done in 3 1/2 days — his last spring start is Wednesday — the Tigers will have only one calendar year to sign him.
Verlander, who has won an AL Rookie of the Year award, an AL MVP award, and an AL Cy Young award, will earn $20.1 million in each of the next two seasons leading up to his free agency. Now 30 years old, an extension with the Tigers would likely take him past his age-35 season, but Verlander might be more tempted to test free agency if the Tigers don’t close the case in the next few days.
The seven-year, $175 million contract awarded to Felix Hernandez by the Seattle Mariners is thought to be a model for a potential Verlander extension, though Verlander is more than three years older.
The Red Sox and Mariners left nothing on the table Friday night, going head-to-head in a series opener that eventually ended 14-10 in the Sox’ favor. Led by Steven Wright and Wade LeBlanc — neither of whom made it past the fifth inning — the teams combined for 34 hits and four home runs, including two moonshots from Seattle’s Nelson Cruz and a five-run rally that gave Boston the edge in the seventh.
In the sixth inning, however, the Red Sox were still scrambling to make up a four-run deficit. Left fielder J.D. Martinez cut it in half with one swing, pouncing on an 89.5-mph fastball from Seattle right-hander Nick Vincent and posting it to dead center field for a two-run shot.
The 427-foot blast was Martinez’s 23rd of the season, tying Mike Trout for the most home runs in the league this year. While he still has a ways to go before eclipsing the career-best 45-HR mark he set in 2017, he’s off to a strong start this season: Entering Friday’s game, the 30-year-old slugger was batting .315/.386/.623 with a 1.009 OPS and AL-leading 55 RBI in 308 PA. He finished Friday’s game 4-for-5 with five RBI, just one triple shy of hitting for the cycle.
Heading into the All-Star Break, both Martinez and Trout still have some competition for the home run title. Jose Ramirez is sitting at 22 homers, while Nelson Cruz and Khris Davis are tied at 20 apiece.