With rumors of a potential injury looming, the Seattle Mariners and Felix Hernandez have agreed to the $175 million, seven-year contract extension that has been reported over the last several days. The deal will make Hernandez the highest-paid pitcher in baseball history.
UPDATE: Wednesday, Feb. 13 at 8:52 p.m. ET by Ethan Grant
According to baseball insider Jon Morosi, the Mariners have protected themselves against Hernandez's elbow problems by way of a clause in his record-breaking contract. Instead of change the final figure, the Mariners have adjusted the contract to protect the team in the event of a career-altering injury.
Here's Morosi's report on Twitter:
Felix Hernandez’s contract will include 8th season at $1MM if he sustains specific elbow injury, sources tell @ken_rosenthal and me.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) February 14, 2013
Felix would need to miss approx. 120-130 days within one season or consecutive seasons in order for clause to activate, sources say.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) February 14, 2013
Since Hernandez has dropped out of the World Baseball Classic (h/t ESPN) to finish the negotiations with the Mariners, it was imperative that the two sides harbor out a deal that benefited both the pitcher and the club. It appears both are now satisfied, and the club will be protected in the event that Hernandez misses any significant time.
---End of update---
Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times was the first to break the news:
Bob Nightengale of USA Today originally reported the historic deal on Feb. 7, stating that the two sides had reached an agreement for seven years, $175 million.
However, Buster Olney of ESPN reported on Feb. 11 that an elbow issue with Hernandez was preventing the deal from being finalized.
As the Seattle Mariners have been in discussions with Felix Hernandez about a record-setting extension, concern has developed over the condition of his pitching elbow, a source says.
After Olney's report was released, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik told Greg Johns of MLB.com that Hernandez has been throwing normally and would be with the team for spring training.
I'm not going to comment on any of that other stuff. It's ridiculous. I've watched him at [Safeco Field] for the last month or so throwing, and he's his normal self.
Hernandez has been the ace of the Mariners staff and one of the best pitchers in baseball since 2009. He has thrown no less than 232 innings, struck out at least 217 hitters and posted an ERA no higher than 3.47 in each season during that span, including two seasons with an ERA under 2.50.
"King Felix" won the 2010 American League Cy Young Award after throwing 249.2 innings with 232 strikeouts and a 2.27 ERA. He has also finished in the top three of Cy Young voting in 2009 and 2012.
One thing to note about Hernandez's performance—as great as it has been—is the decline in his velocity over the years. According to Fangraphs, the average speed on his fastball has gone from 94.1 mph in 2010 to 92.1 last season. He also threw it less frequently, relying more on his slider and changeup to get hitters out.
Regardless, this signing marks a huge move for the Mariners franchise as it attempts to return to relevancy. By locking up one of MLB's elite starting pitchers, Seattle has greatly improved its chances at contending in the American League West in the years to come.