Bonderman gets $38M deal
Tigers extend right-hander's contract through 2010
The weather outside Dori Bonderman's window in Pasco, Wash., was cold, frosty and foggy -- ordinary conditions on an extraordinary Monday afternoon.
She had just received some of the best news a parent could imagine: Her power-armed son, who started the night the Tigers won their first pennant in 22 years, had signed a four-year, $38 million contract extension with the team.
"Pretty cool," she said, with pride and awe in her voice, during a telephone interview. "It's not a bad Monday at all. We're glad for him. We're just really glad."
The Tigers are, too. Dave Dombrowski, the club president and general manager, called Monday "a good day for us, our fans and for Jeremy." Bonderman, 24, is now under contract through 2010, at annual sums that appear very reasonable, given the escalating cost of high-end pitching.
The right-hander will earn $4.5 million next year and $8.5 million in 2008, during what would have been his final two years of salary arbitration. The contract will then pay $12.5 million in both 2009 and 2010, which were to be his first two seasons after entering free agency.
"I'm thrilled to know that I'm going to be around here for a long time," Bonderman said Monday night. "I knew that if I took care of business, that I'd have an opportunity to stay here and take care of my family.
"This is where I want to be."
Bonderman took a redeye from Seattle to Detroit on Sunday night -- "Wasn't the most enjoyable flight, but it was worth it," he said -- and passed his physical before the deal was announced late Monday afternoon. Then he spent a couple hours with friend and teammate Nate Robertson, the team's lone year-round Michigan resident, at Robertson's home in Canton.
Bonderman said Michigan's mild weather wasn't at all what he expected -- a fine metaphor, really, for how he has warmed to Detroit. Bonderman admitted Monday that, when the Tigers acquired him in 2002, he never thought he'd sign a long-term contract here. Now, though, he sees the community as a great place for his wife, Amber, and 6-month-old daughter, Mailee, to live during the season.
"I'm glad I got traded here," said Bonderman, acquired from Oakland in the watershed Jeff Weaver deal. "I've seen the city grow, from what it was in my first year to what it is now. Everything has changed."
Bonderman went 14-8 with a 4.08 ERA this season, as his winning percentage, ERA and innings pitched improved for a third consecutive year. He struck out 202, second only to Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana in the American League. Perhaps most important, he tied for the league lead in starts (34) and has never appeared on a major-league disabled list.
Dombrowski had reasoned that this off-season would be an optimal time to sign Bonderman to a long-term deal. Players are generally inclined to test the market when they're one year from free agency, which is where Bonderman would've been at this time next year. So the team decided to pursue an extension with Bonderman "months ago," Dombrowski said.
"We thought it was important," Dombrowski said. "Then he pitched so well in the postseason (1-0, 3.10, three starts). That was icing on the cake.
"He's one of the best young pitchers in the game. We think he's only going to get better."
Monday's agreement had mutual appeal. The team is now assured of having Bonderman, right-handers Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya, and left-hander Andrew Miller under control, together, through at least 2010.
Bonderman, meanwhile, will receive his first great fortune, and he will enter free agency during what should be his prime, at age 28.
"He's in a very good situation," Dombrowski said.
And so, it would appear, are the Tigers.
Contact JON PAUL MOROSI at 313-223-4097 or firstname.lastname@example.org