Without a contract extension in the next few hours, Justin Verlander could be looking at his last season in Detroit. If he's true to his word, no deal by today -- when he makes his final spring start -- means no contract discussions until next off-season.

If the Tigers are crazy enough to prolong this dance until next winter, they might have no recourse but to shop Verlander after this season for the biggest haul of inexpensive, top-drawer prospects available. If not, they face the certainty of losing Verlander with little compensation once he hits the open market after the 2014 season.

It shouldn't be that hard of a decision. If you're confident that Verlander is that once-in-a-generation dynamic presence on the mound -- and he is -- lock him up now. Offer him five years at $150 million, making him the first $30-million pitcher history.

He's going to get paid -- big-time!

And he should be paid -- big-time!

Regardless of the inherent risks of long-term financial commitments to power pitchers, the marketplace will smile upon Verlander. It's not about what he rightfully deserves, but rather what he aggressively can negotiate. The Tigers have the best pitcher (Verlander) and hitter (Miguel Cabrera) in the game, but what good is that distinction if nerves turn soft when the time comes to rightly compensate them for that excellence?

Verlander, who just turned 30, expertly has sprinkled hints about his future all spring. One day, there's a well-placed nugget about how he wouldn't mind being the first pitcher with a $200-million contract. Then he says that while he would love finishing his career as a Tiger, he wasn't averse to testing the waters of free agency. Then last weekend he tells CBSsports.com that he wanted to focus on winning, not negotiating, after his last exhibition game.

The longer Verlander goes without an extension, the harder it will get for the Tigers -- and Detroiters.