The offseason may not have been a win for many Mariners, but after today, it will most certainly not be a loss either.
As reported by USA Today writer Bob Nightengale, and confirmed by Buster Olney of ESPN the Mariners have signed pitcher Felix Hernandez to a five year, $135.5 million contract extension, making him the highest-paid pitcher in Major League Baseball history. The contract will pay Hernandez a record average of $27.1 million annually through the 2019 season. The signing was also confirmed by Jon Morosi of Fox Sports:
Source confirms Felix Hernandez's deal with Mariners will be seven years, $175 million, as first reported by Bob Nightengale.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) February 7, 2013
With the deal, Felix surpasses CC Sabathia's $161 million deal, signed prior to the 2009 season, and eclipses Zack Greinke's $24.5 million per year he signed this offseason with the Dodgers. The deal will replace the two remaining seasons on his current deal, allowing Hernandez to become a free agent when he is 33. Perhaps more importantly for Mariners fans, Hernandez will have accumulated 10 service years with the Mariners after the 2015 season, giving Felix a no-trade clause as well.
Seattle fans were skeptical, heading into Spring Training, of the direction the Mariners franchise was heading in. After a failed attempt at signing Josh Hamilton and a trade rejection from Justin Upton, many Mariners fans were beginning to wonder how long it would be until they saw a winner again. Needless to say, this is one big step in the right direction.
Now, signing Felix to a contract extension does not make the team better right now, but it shows fans and future players alike that the team is dedicated to fielding a winner at any cost. Not only does the signing show a dedication to winning, but it also shows that ownership is willing to spend the money it takes to get superstars to come to the Pacific Northwest.
For the past few years, General Manager Jack Zduriencik was the constant target of Felix Hernandez trade rumors. But as of recently, the Mariners brass had been making it awfully clear they had no intent on trading The King:
#mariners broached multiyear deal w/ king felix. want to make him "mariner for life." talks very preliminary. sea pushing
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 4, 2012
The new contract doesn't necessarily make Felix a "Mariner for Life," but it does effectively put an end to the Felix Hernandez trade rumors—potentially for good.
For Mariners fans, the signing of King Felix finally brings an end to the months of worrying about a future without Felix and finally gives them something to be excited about.
Editor's Note: Felix's contract numbers have been adjusted after ESPN reported it was an extension, not a contract.